Following harsh criticism and heavy pressure not to pass it, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced this week that he will not allow a religious freedoms law to pass in the state. House Bill 757 would have given religious organizations the option to deny services, including jobs, to LGBTQ people. The measure was intended to “protect religious freedom,” but that is decidedly not the way many people interpreted the proposal.
“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part for all our lives,” Deal said. He has been under increasing pressure from film and media companies who threatened to take their business outside of Georgia if the bill passed, from Netflix to the crew of The Walking Dead. Film and network companies provide a total of $1.7 billion to the state of Georgia, so to lose them would be to lose a significant amount of revenue.
Deal said that his decision was not the result of the pressure from these companies. Instead, he stated that the veto was “about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind, and generous people. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.”
But Deal has met some opposition. Georgia Senator Mike Crane has called for a special session to override Deal’s veto, citing the law as an example of how corporations and lobbyists use money to influence the government. Timothy Head, the executive director for the Faith and Freedom Coalition, also supports the bill.
“HB 757 simply protects pastors, churches, and faith-based organizations from being forced to violate their religious belief,” Head said. “We are confident that we will ultimately prevail in protecting the free speech and religious expression of all Georgians.”
Still, many groups and individuals have praised Deal for the veto. A transgender man from the state said it was “truly amazing” to hear the speech Deal gave. Matt McTighe, executive director of Freedom for All Americans, thanked the governor for “doing the right thing.”