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Georgia Governor Set To Veto 'Religious Liberty' Bill. Here's Why
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Georgia Governor Set To Veto 'Religious Liberty' Bill. Here's Why

Politics

Georgia Governor Set To Veto 'Religious Liberty' Bill. Here's Why

Georgia Governor Set To Veto 'Religious Liberty' Bill. Here's Why
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Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has announced his plan to veto a bill of religious exemptions, which would have protected opponents of same-sex marriage. As Elly Yu of member station WABE reports, businesses played a huge role in the debate.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

Georgia's governor is vetoing a bill that critics said would have led to discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. Elly Yu of member station WABE reports those critics include big business and Hollywood.

ELLY YU, BYLINE: Republican Governor Nathan Deal says his decision came down to wanting to reflect the state's character.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

NATHAN DEAL: Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people, and that is what we should want.

YU: Georgia's also been a welcoming state for many businesses. With more than a dozen Fortune 500 companies based here, it prides itself on luring in more corporate headquarters, like Mercedes-Benz USA, as well as attracting more filmmaking.

So when state lawmakers passed a bill this month that would allow faith-based nonprofits to refuse services or higher people due to religious reasons, businesses spoke up loudly. Delta Air Lines, Coca-Cola, UPS, Home Depot and hundreds of Georgia businesses came together to fight the legislation. Those companies were concerned the measure amounted to legalize discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Today, Governor Deal seemed to agree.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DEAL: I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives.

YU: William Pate says he's relieved the governor came to this conclusion. Pate heads the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WILLIAM PATE: I think his decision is really going to sustain Georgia's position as a No. 1 state in which to do business.

YU: But having business weigh in on politics isn't new in Georgia. Atlanta, the state's capitol, has a long history of corporate heavyweights shaping key decisions. In 1964, when Martin Luther King Jr. received the Nobel Peace Prize, some white elites refused to attend an integrated dinner in his honor. That's when Coca-Cola threatened to leave the state if the boycott happened. About 1,600 people ended up attending the sold-out event where Martin Luther King Jr. addressed the crowd.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR.: This marvelous hometown welcome and honor will remain dear to me as long as the chords of memory shall lengthen.

YU: But in this case, the business community's fight may not be over yet. Supporters of the bill were disappointed in the governor's decision, saying the bill is still necessary to protect people who want to follow their own religious beliefs. State Senator Josh McKoon criticized the governor for what he sees as bowing to business.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JOSH MCKOON: If we're going to allow a handful of business executives largely from outside of our state to dictate public policy, I mean, I would argue we could do away with the kind of quaint elections that we have. We may as well just auction off seats in the legislature.

YU: Some lawmakers are now calling for a special session to try to override the governor's veto. For NPR News, I'm Elly Yu in Atlanta.

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Georgia Gov. Says He Will Veto Controversial 'Religious Liberty' Bill

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a press conference Monday in Atlanta to announce his rejection of a controversial "religious liberty" bill. He said: "I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith-based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state." i

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a press conference Monday in Atlanta to announce his rejection of a controversial "religious liberty" bill. He said: "I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith-based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state." David Goldman/AP hide caption

toggle caption David Goldman/AP
Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a press conference Monday in Atlanta to announce his rejection of a controversial "religious liberty" bill. He said: "I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith-based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state."

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a press conference Monday in Atlanta to announce his rejection of a controversial "religious liberty" bill. He said: "I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith-based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state."

David Goldman/AP

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, facing mounting pressure from corporations with interests in his state, said Monday that he will veto a controversial "religious liberties" bill.

As we reported, the measure that state legislators passed earlier this month "allows religious officials and faith-based organizations to deny services when doing so would violate a 'sincerely held religious belief.' Critics say it enshrines discrimination against gays and lesbians."

Deal, who is a Republican, told reporters at a press conference Monday:

"Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people. And that is what we should want. They choose to worship God in the way they see fit in a myriad of ways, in a variety of different settings. I believe that that is our best side. And our people, every day, work side by side without regard to the color of their skin of their fellow mate. Or the religion that their co-worker might adhere to. They are simply trying to make life better for themselves, their families and their communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way."

"For that reason," he added, "I will veto House Bill 757."

Deal also said: "I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives."

You can read Deal's full remarks here.

AJC reports the governor's decision comes after an intense fight:

"The two-term Republican has been besieged by all sides over the controversial measure, and his office has received thousands of emails and hundreds of calls on the debate. The tension was amplified by a steady stream of corporate titans who urged him to veto the bill — and threatened to pull investments from Georgia if it became law.

"The governor's planned veto will likely infuriate religious conservatives who considered the measure, House Bill 757, their top priority. This is the third legislative session they've sought to strengthen legal protections from opponents of gay marriage, but last year's Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex weddings galvanized their efforts."

Disney and its Marvel subsidiary had threatened to boycott the state, and a range of companies including Apple, Dell and Time Warner had urged the governor to veto the legislation.

AMC Networks, which films its hit show The Walking Dead in the state, had also called for a veto.

Georgia has a burgeoning film industry, drawing scores of TV and film shoots yearly due to attractive tax incentives. The Los Angeles Times, citing the Georgia Department of Economic Development, reported that "248 film and television productions shot in the Peach State" in 2015, "representing $1.7 billion in spending."

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