Republican Gov. Nathan Deal of Georgia has vetoed House Bill 757, also known as The Free Exercise Protection Act. The controversial legislation would have allowed for groups to deny LGBT people services and employment based on religious conviction (video below).
The bill, passed to Deal’s desk by the Republican-controlled Georgia House and Senate, was blasted by critics for enabling outright discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered people in the state.
The legislation would have also allowed religious leaders to defy federal law by refusing marrying same-sex couples and to turn them away from their facilities, The Daily Beast reports.
Implementing The Free Exercise Protection Act could have had serious economic implications for the state.
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Several large companies that do business in Georgia threatened a boycott if the bill was signed into law. These included Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, The Home Depot, Google, Microsoft, Viacom and Time Warner.
Several Hollywood film studios, including The Walt Disney Co., also vowed to cease all filming in Georgia if the law came to pass. In the fiscal year of 2015, the state reaped $6 billion from local film productions, according to Georgia's Office of the Governor.
The NFL also warned that if Georgia adopted the law, it would have to reconsider hosting the Super Bowl in the state's capital, Atlanta.
On March 28, Deal announced his decision to veto the bill, CNN reports.
“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia,” Deal said. The governor added that striking down the legislation was important for “the character of our state and the character of our people.”
Executive director Matt McTighe of Freedom for All Americans issued praise for Deal’s decision, adding that while freedom of religion was important, “it doesn’t mean there’s a need for harmful exemptions that can lead to discrimination.”
Republican lawmakers in the Georgia legislature have already called for the override of Deal’s veto.
“We are confident we will ultimately prevail in protecting the free speech and religious expressions of all Georgians,” said Faith & Freedom Coalition Executive Director Timothy Head.
If the bill had become law, it would have echoed the recent legislation signed by Republican Gov. Pat McCrory of North Carolina, which stripped LGBT protections across the state and will require that transgender people use bathrooms that match the gender on their birth certificates.
On March 28, the ACLU filed a federal lawsuit against McCrory and the state's lawmakers, ABC News reports.