Gov. Nathan Deal may have just put the kibosh on Sen. Greg Kirk’s HB 757 in a historic denunciation of the bill. From the AJC:
Standing in the lobby of a government building after a ribbon-cutting ceremony, he laid out a lengthy condemnation of the measure from a Biblical perspective, first noting that he is a Southern Baptist who took religion courses at Mercer University.
“What the New Testament teaches us is that Jesus reached out to those who were considered the outcasts, the ones that did not conform to the religious societies’ view of the world. We do not have a belief in my way of looking at religion that says we have to discriminate against anybody. If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit.”
He then turned to a passage from the Gospel of John that showed Jesus reaching out to an outcast.
“What that says is we have a belief in forgiveness and that we do not have to discriminate unduly against anyone on the basis of our own religious beliefs. We are not jeopardized, in my opinion, by those who believe differently from us. We are not, in my opinion, put in jeopardy by virtue of those who might hold different beliefs or who may not even agree with what our Supreme Court said the law of the land is on the issue of same-sex marriage. I do not feel threatened by the fact that people who might choose same-sex marriages pursue that route.”
Significantly, Deal stated that he would veto any bill that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” and asked those of similar mildly heterosexist views on marriage as himself and his wife of 50 years to slow their roll:
“I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us, and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs,” he said. “But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that. And that’s the compromise that I’m looking for.”
Deal has said that the bill is not on his agenda for this session.
State House Speaker David Ralston’s office responded to Deal’s statement with the following statement:
“Speaker Ralston appreciates and shares Governor Deal’s sincere commitment to protecting religious liberties while ensuring that Georgia continues to welcome everyone with genuine southern hospitality. Productive conversations continue with the Governor’s staff as well as other members of House leadership regarding HB 757 and the Speaker is confident that we can find a way to move forward together.”
NOTE: Georgia is one of five states (all Southern) which does not have ANY public accommodations protections statewide. Georgia’s Supreme Court decriminalized consensual same-sex relations in 1998’s Powell v. Georgia, twelve years after SCOTUS upheld Georgia’s ban in Bowers v. Hardwick and five years before SCOTUS struck down all remaining bans nationwide in Lawrence v. Texas. Marriage equality became legal in Georgia in 2015 through Obergefell v. Hodges. There exist no statewide protections in employment or housing for sexual orientation or gender identity for Georgians.