“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,” said Deal during a press conference in Atlanta. “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.”
Georgia lawmakers earlier this month approved House Bill 757 that would have allowed faith-based organizations to deny services “that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” Disney and several other companies had urged Deal to veto the controversial measure.
“Today we feel very fortunate that LGBT people and people with living with HIV were spared the terrible consequences of HB 757,” said Lambda Legal Southern Regional Director Simone Bell in a statement. “We applaud today’s veto by Governor Deal and thank him for his willingness to listen to the voices explaining the damage this bill could have caused.”
“In the end, Governor Deal did not allow hate and fear-mongering to dictate state policy; instead he chose to act reasonably and with compassion and demonstrated that equality is a Georgia value,” added Bell. “He listened to the business community, hundreds of ministers, and tens of thousands of Georgians who opposed the bill. Freedom of religion does not give any of us permission to discriminate against others.”
Georgia Equality, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, wrote on its Facebook page that Deal “did the right thing.”
Georgia is among the states in which lawmakers have considered religious freedom measures in recent months.
The Mississippi House of Representatives last month approved a bill that would, among other things, allow officials not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of their religious beliefs.
The Virginia House of Delegates approved a similar religious freedom bill earlier this month. Governor Terry McAuliffe is expected to veto the measure in the coming weeks.