Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced in a press conference on Monday that he will veto House Bill 757, the legislation which would provide religious exemptions to religious owners of private establishments to regulate access to their public accommodations (FULL TRANSCRIPT HERE).
Gov. Deal stated that he saw no need for this legislation, stating “I find it ironic that some in the religious community look to government to secure religious rights.” He stated that “this shows how difficult it is to legislate an issue best left to the broad protections in our Constitution,” specifically citing the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution as a broad-enough protection of religious liberties in the state.
Citing the evolution of the bill prior to the anti-LGBT monstrosity it became at the hands of Sen. Greg Kirk (R-13), Gov. Deal noted:
I had no objection to the “Pastor Protection Act” that was passed by the House of Representatives. The other versions of the bill, however, contained language that could give rise to state sanctioned discrimination. I did have problems with that and made my concerns known as did many other individuals and organizations, including some within the faith based community.
Perhaps to hedge against any perception of weakness, Gov. Deal also took a swipe at both activist critics of his motives as well as members of the business community who threatened to withdraw their business from the state over the signature of the bill, stating, “I do not respond well to insults or threats.”
He ended the press conference with an exhortation to an image of the state’s character:
As I’ve said before, I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives. Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our State and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side-by-side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.
For that reason, I will veto HB 757.
After the press conference, Deal left the press conference without taking any questions from the press.
Despite Deal’s veto of the bill, as Sen. Bill Heath (R-31) has threatened, GOP members have already threatened to call a special session to override it. However, as noted by the AJC, the bill failed to reach the necessary two-thirds majority in both the Senate (by one vote) and the House (by 16 votes, 10 of which were Republican) upon final passage to guarantee an override.
Reaction to the veto is forthcoming. Expect Sen. Josh McKoon, Columbus’ staunchest defender of the bill, to react to the veto as he usually does: