Will Nathan Deal sign the new ‘religious liberty’ measure?

Mar 22, 2016

Photo credit: Hyosub Shin

By Greg Bluestein

The controversial rewrite of the “religious liberty” bill that swept through the Legislature in a few swift hours late Wednesday faces an uncertain fate with Gov. Nathan Deal.

In fact, rarely has such a high profile measure been such an open question on his watch. Other contentious bills, such as the “guns everywhere” legislation in 2014 and the immigration crackdown in 2011, were signed into law with little suspense after Deal telegraphed his intentions.

The religious liberty bill, also known as House Bill 757, is a different story. The governor has a long and complicated relationship with the proposal, which is seen by some conservatives as an answer to the Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage but by corporate leaders and gay rights activists as legalized discrimination.

As the debate rocked the Legislature over the past few sessions, Deal has swung from pointed reminders that the bill isn’t part of his agenda to advice to lawmakers on how to craft legislation he would sign.

The counsel he offered in the final hours of last year’s legislative session, as a similar measure flamed out, included a demand that lawmakers include an anti-discrimination clause. As an earlier version of the legislation without that addition rocketed through the statehouse this year, infuriating corporate titans, Deal called for sweeping changes.

In remarkably stark terms, the governor said he would reject any measure that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.” Rooting his critique in biblical terms, he urged fellow Republicans to take a deep breath and “recognize that the world is changing around us.”

“We do not have a belief in my way of looking at religion that says we have to discriminate against anybody,” he said. “If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit.”

The “compromise” legislation that emerged after Deal’s complaints is an amalgamation of several other proposals winding through the statehouse. It would allow faith-based organizations to deny services to those who violate their “sincerely held religious belief” and protect their rights to fire employees who aren’t in accord with those beliefs.

It also mirrors language found in the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which was signed by President Bill Clinton and adopted by dozens of states, requiring government to prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion. It also includes a clause saying it could not be used to allow discrimination banned by state or federal law.

The late changes, which surfaced just hours before lawmakers voted on them, left it unclear whether the new legislation assuaged the governor’s concerns or sharpened them. And the forceful condemnation from gay rights groups and business boosters quickly countered by a GOP statement applauding lawmakers “for listening to grassroots Republicans” only underscored the tension Deal faces over the bill.

Source: http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2016/03/17/will-nathan-deal-sign-the-new-religious-liberty-measure/

One comment on “Will Nathan Deal sign the new ‘religious liberty’ measure?”

  • It looks like a faith-based and Republican discrimination try-on has been knocked back in Georgia!

    The governor of the US state of Georgia has vetoed a “religious freedom” bill after facing pressure from business interests.

    The bill would have allowed faith-based organisations to refuse service to gay and transgender people.

    Disney, the National Football League, Coca-Cola and others threatened to pull business out of the state.

    The veto comes as other US states enacted similar laws that limit gay rights.

    “I believe it is a matter of character for our state,” Governor Nathan Deal said.

    “I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia.”

    .Republicans lawmakers said the bill would protect religious people who believe serving gay and transgender people violates their beliefs.

    The bill also would have protected clergy not wishing to perform gay marriages, and people who would not attend weddings based on religious beliefs.

    If passed, opponents said it would have legalised discrimination and flattened ordinances passed to protect gay and transgender people.

    Mr Deal said his decision was “about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state; it is full of loving, kind and generous people.”

    Disney said it would not shoot films in Georgia if the bill became law.

    “Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a Disney spokesman told Variety last week.

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