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:
Well, folks. There you have it. The Georgia House has passed the amended version of HB 757 104-65, and the Senate 37-18.
Here’s how Muscogee County’s delegation in the General Assembly voted:
- Rep. Carolyn Hugley (D-136) voted NO
- Rep. Calvin Smyre (D-135) voted NO
- Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-137) voted NO
- Rep. John Pezold (R-133) voted NO
- Sen. Ed Harbison (D-15) voted NO
- Rep. Richard Smith (R-134) voted YES
- Sen. Josh McKoon (R-29) voted YES
We can at least be glad that the majority of our delegation voted against this bill.
Also, it apparently was not a party-line vote: 10 Republicans in the House and 1 Republican in the Senate voted against the bill, thanks to lobbying from Georgia Republicans for the Future. From Project Q Atlanta:
If there was an upside to the votes on Wednesday, Georgia Republicans for the Future – a coalition that has opposed the “religious freedom” legislation – said it came as 10 House Republicans voted against House Bill 757. The list included Rep. Allen Peake, a Republican from Macon who has a gay brother and has spoken out against legislation that would discriminate against LGBT people.[…]
Other House Republicans that voted against the legislation included Reps. Beth Beskin, Rich Golick, Gerald Greene, Chuck Martin, BJ Pak, John Pezold, Tom Taylor, Joe Wilkinson and Chuck Williams. Rep. Rusty Kidd, an Independent, causes with the GOP and also voted against the bill.
In the Senate, Sen. JaNice VanNess was the only Republican to vote against the bill.
Of note: Most of the Republican NO votes are from the Metro Atlanta area, one with a much-better-organized LGBT community.
- Rep. Beskin (HD 54 – Atlanta)
- Rep. Golick (HD 40 – Smyrna)
- Rep. Martin (HD 49 – Alpharetta)
- Rep. Pak (HD 108 – Lilburn)
- Rep. Taylor (HD 79 – Dunwoody)
- Rep. Wilkinson (HD 52 – Atlanta)
- Sen. VanNess (SD 43 – Conyers)
Outside of Atlanta metro, the GOP No votes were from isolated pockets of non-Atlanta Georgia: Reps. Pezold (HD 133 – Columbus), Greene (HD 151 – Cuthbert), and Williams (HD 119 – Watkinsville). Rep, Kidd (HD 145), the sole independent in the Assembly, represents Milledgeville and voted NO.
And just to mollify those supporters who say: “Read the bill, you’ll like it!”, here’s the amended version which passed (PDF), which continues to allow discrimination in public accommodations.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin:
“Governor Deal made clear weeks ago that he wouldn’t sign legislation that allows discrimination–now is the time for him to show Georgia and the nation that he means it. Shockingly, the decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse. It’s appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia, and to empower businesses with the explicit right to discriminate and deny service to LGBT Americans. Corporate leaders in Georgia and across the country have already spoken out against this bill because the First Amendment already protects religious freedom. It’s time for Governor Deal to veto H.B. 757. Anything other than a swift veto is only courting an Indiana-style backlash.”
Lambda Legal southern regional director (and former state representative) Simone Bell:
“We are deeply disappointed that the Georgia House and Senate passed HB 757 and we urge Governor Deal to veto this discriminatory bill. This is still a terrible bill and it is nowhere near a solution. It is equally as divisive and harmful as the bill that is opposed by hundreds of ministers, thousands of employers, and tens of thousands of Georgians.
“We cannot replace a bad bill with another bad bill. And this is a very bad bill. It invites discrimination and encourages lawsuits. It is targeted at the LGBT community but will sweep in others. It purports to excuse anyone from following the law if they claim it burdens their religion.
“This bill encourages government officials to use religion to treat LGBT people, and others, unfairly and to ignore anti-discrimination policies. Freedom of religion does not give any of us the right to discriminate against others. The bill is a toxic recipe for increasing disputes, discord and discrimination across the state. It would allow taxpayer-funded faith-based organizations (like soup kitchens, homeless shelters, etc.) to deny services to LGBT people or others, and to fire and otherwise discriminate against LGB people. It could apply to universities, colleges, schools, businesses and organizations – big and small — that are tangentially-related to, or affiliated with, a church. Most egregiously, this bill could override Non-Discrimination Ordinances in a host of ways.
“Lambda Legal urges the Governor to veto this bill before it causes damage and legal havoc between neighbors, landlord and tenant, employee and employer, and customer and company.
“Do not be fooled — nothing in this bill protects LGBT people from discrimination. It is a shameful and blatant attempt to roll back equality for LGBT people and their families.”
Freedom For All Americans executive director Matt McTighe:
“Governor Deal spoke from the heart just a few weeks ago when he stated his unequivocal opposition to legislation that does exactly what HB 757 portends to do. Nothing in the License to Discriminate legislation has changed for the better since Governor Deal made his original remarks – in fact, the bill is worse. Governor Deal must veto this dangerous legislation. Georgia’s economy and brand are both at stake. This is alarmingly similar to the course of events we saw play out in Indiana, right before religious exemptions legislation in the state cost millions in lost revenue.”
From Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce spokesperson Ada Hatzios:
“We recognize this is a very challenging issue and that there was meaningful effort to address the balance between deeply held views and the interests and rights of others. We appreciate the efforts made to find common ground by the House and Senate. However, we are opposed to HB 757. This legislation is in conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion that Georgians hold dear and could erode Georgia’s hard-earned status as the No. 1 state for business — and would harm our ability to create and keep jobs that Georgia families depend upon. The bill does not protect local non-discrimination ordinances, which could impact the state’s ability to recruit major revenue-driving sporting events like the Super Bowl, the Final Four and the College Football Championship; it also jeopardizes our convention and tourism businesses. We agree with Governor Deal that allowing discrimination isn’t a proper reflection of who we are and echo his call for unity and inclusion. We deeply appreciate the Governor’s deliberation on this very important issue, and respectfully ask him to maintain this view while considering this legislation.”
From Georgia Equality President Jeff Graham:
“Over the past few weeks, we’ve seen an unprecedented chorus of unexpected allies come together to speak out against HB 757, the License to Discriminate. Conservatives, legal experts, people of faith, businesses and more than 75,000 Georgians expressed their strong opposition to legislation which threatens our state’s economy and reputation, and which very clearly singles out LGBT people and others for harm. It’s shameful that lawmakers in the House ignored this feedback and, rather than taking steps to mitigate any potential fallout, actually made a bad bill worse.
“Make no mistake about it – this is legislation that singles out LGBT Georgians, single mothers, religious minorities and so many others for discrimination. This bill will have immediate and severe consequences for our state.
“Governor Deal spoke in very eloquent terms about his opposition to HB 757 earlier this month, and I hope the governor understands that this amended legislation is worse than the previous version he spoke out about. The HB 757 which passed the House tonight will undoubtedly harm our economy and our state’s reputation. Governor Deal should hold true to his earlier opposition and veto this harmful, discriminatory bill.”
From Colgay Pride President Jeremy Hobbs:
“This is a call to action to everyone to call the Governor and tell him to honor his promise to veto House Bill 757. In his first public comments since the contentious new religious liberty bill swept through the Legislature, Gov. Nathan Deal said he was “pleasantly surprised” lawmakers hashed out a compromise but emphasized that he faces a hard decision ahead whether to sign it. Just two weeks ago, Governor Deal made statements strongly opposing “any” religious exemptions bill that would promote discrimination in the state of Georgia. We must stand together and Hold Governor Nathan Deal to his word. This bill is bad for business and it’s bad for Georgians all around.
I still cannot believe that in 2016 we are setting forth a legalized Religious Crusades to destroy the foundation of which this country was built. A country that would founded and built upon and fought for to defend the founding principles of Separation of Church and State. Why are we trying to say this has anything to do with religion because in my faith, Jesus NEVER turned anyone away? The only thing these bills foundations are built upon is hatred and division. Religion does not preach hate or division but instead teaches love thy neighbor and promotes non-judgmental unity.
There is a really tough decision ahead for our Governor. A decision that could cost Georgia Billions if he does not VETO it. Tell the Governor to do his job and protect the rights of ALL Georgians. Veto HB 757.”
From Georgia Republicans for the Future spokesperson Allen Fox:
On Wednesday 10 House Republican lawmakers broke rank with leadership in voting down a dangerous proposal that would give broad license to discriminate and erase local power.
Together, these legislators represent the new face of the Republican Party. Together, they honor the limited government tradition of the Republican Party.
Georgia Republicans for the Future commends these legislators for demonstrating uncommon courage in the political arena by standing on the side of individual and economic freedom.
And for the sake of our growing Republican Party and Georgia’s distinction as the “Best Place in the Nation to Do Business,” we urge Governor Deal to uphold his commitment to veto any bill that discriminates.
From Georgia Democrats spokesperson Michael Smith:
“Republican lawmakers should be ashamed of this small-minded piece of legislation. If this bill is signed into law, today will be looked back upon as one of our state’s most disgraceful moments in modern history. Georgia has been down the road of discrimination before, and it did not end well.
“The business community has been consistently clear with their aversion of this legislation. If the GOP’s goal was to draft an economic stimulus for attorneys, then mission accomplished. The resulting litigation from this move will clog our courts, paralyze our economy, and drain our business community dry. HB 757 is a short-sighted move by Republicans that will have consequences for years to come.
“Discrimination and exclusion are not Georgia values, and history has shown that hope and progress always win.”
I met lawyer Sam Wolfe back in 2012 at the Protest against “Love Won Out” in front of Midway Church in Villa Rica, GA. He was there representing the Southern Poverty Law Center, along with many others including Wayne Besen of Truth Wins Out, Chaim Levin of Gotta Give Em’ Hope, Art Izzard from the Queer Justice League of Atlanta, members of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence’s Atlanta chapter, GetEQUAL GA (Hi Paul Shapoe!) and GetEqual OH (hey Tom Morgan!), and my friend Edric Floyd of PFLAG Macon (Macon Georgia).
Edric and I rode up from what was then Macon State College (now Middle Georgia State University) to Villa Rica in the morning. It was pretty gray out, and we protesters had to stand on the edge of the other side of the road according to the squad cars blocking the one entryway to the church parking lot. There was one bullhorn, and no sidewalk.
Ya’ll in Missouri need to listen to the filibuster in the MO Senate right now. Going on 18-19 hours now. Senator Maria Chapelle Nadal spoke all night. Follow the reactions and quotes through hashtag #SJR39.mms://chamber.senate.mo.gov/SenateChamber
Also, send some Twitter love to State Senators Maria Chapelle-Nadal (@MariaChappelleN), Jill Schupp (@JillSchupp), Jamilah Nasheed (@SenatorNasheed), Joe Keaveny (@JoeKeaveny) and Kiki Curls (@KikiCurls).
From USA Today:
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Monday unanimously reversed an Alabama court’s refusal to recognize a same-sex adoption.
The justices upheld a challenge brought by an Alabama woman after her state’s highest court refused to recognize the adoption she and her former lesbian partner were granted in Georgia.
The couple never married and have since split up. But the case presented a test of an issue that crops up occasionally in state and federal courts since the Supreme Court struck down state bans on same-sex marriage: Can gays and lesbians be denied adoption rights?
[…]Not so, the Supreme Court ruled. “A state may not disregard the judgment of a sister state because it disagrees with the reasoning underlying the judgment or deems it to be wrong on the merits,” its reversal said. Rather, Alabama must give “full faith and credit” to the Georgia court’s decision.
The high court previously had blocked the Alabama court’s action while considering the case, temporarily restoring V.L.’s visitation rights.
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.
I took several photos from the 31st Annual Black History Month Breakfast at the Columbus Trade & Convention Center, Monday February 15, 2015. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas was the guest speaker, and the event had luminaries from all over the city, representing different sectors of society from fraternities to AFLAC to politics to Columbus Regional Health.
Several individuals were given awards for their years of community involvement: City Manager Isaiah and State Rep. Carolyn Hugley were jointly offered the “Legacy of Leadership” Award, Muscogee County Democrats Chair Saundra Ellison was offered the “Unsung Hero” award, and both Brandon Hicks and Gwenetta Wright were both offered the “Emerging Leader” award.
DISCLOSURE: My thanks to Rep. Sanford Bishop of Georgia who offered up to 8 free seats at the breakfast to Muscogee County Young Democrats, of which I am a part. I am also paid by the Muscogee County Democrats to maintain their official website and social media.
State Sen. Greg Kirk’s HB 757, the combined Pastor Protection Act/First Amendment Defense Act, was passed by the State Senate last week. Gov. Deal has stated that the bill has not been finalized. The final version of the bill has to pass the House again before it is sent to Deal’s desk.
In reaction to the bill’s passage, 373k, a telecommunications startup led by CEO Kevin Williams (who is African-American and openly gay), announced that they would immediately move their operations to Nevada.
It’s a seriously-detrimental bill which has the ACLU and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce speaking out in opposition.
What the bill demonstrates is that so many of the conservative legislators backing this bill, including Sen. Kirk (a former pastor who has no background in law), have no idea of what they’re talking about, what they’re fighting against or who they’re defending. Sen. Kirk can even glibly claim 3(!) “gay friends” in order to justify his utter, dunder-headed lack of discussion or intelligence-gathering over this bill outside of his social circles.
Those Senators who voted for HB757, as well as those who voted for Sen. McKoon’s RFRA last session, are lashing out against a changing world and a changing Georgia. Their claims of seeking a “live and let live” status quo only benefit their privilege against those who don’t live their lives by their precepts.
If you’re in Columbus or anywhere in Georgia and want to defeat this bill, here’s what you can do, courtesy of my friend Rob Woods at Georgia Equality:
Call the Speaker / Governor / Lt Governor
David Ralston (Speaker of the House)
Email – http://www.house.ga.gov/Representatives/en-US/member.aspx?Member=189&Se
Tweet Ralston – @GaHouseHub #SpeakerRalston
Governor Nathan Deal
Call Governor Nathan Deal Office – 404-656-1776
Email – http://gov.georgia.gov/webform/contact-governor-domestic-form
Tweet Governor – @GovernorDeal
I used Youtube Editor for the first time to create a video clip show, so it’s pretty glitchy.