Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal (R) on Monday vetoed a controversial religious liberties bill that had provoked outrage from Hollywood, sports leagues and corporations for what critics said was its discrimination against gay and transgender people.
“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, which I and my family have been a part of for generations,” Deal said at a news conference announcing his decision. “Georgia is a welcoming state.”
Deal’s decision comes two weeks after the state legislature passed a bill aimed at shoring up the rights of religious organizations to refuse services that clash with their faith, particularly with regard to same-sex marriage. Deal, who had already expressed discomfort with the measure, came under enormous pressure to veto the bill after the National Football League suggested it might pass over Atlanta for future Super Bowls, and leading Hollywood figures threatened to pull production from the state.
The decision drew immediate praise from gay rights groups.
“Today, Governor Deal heard the voices of Georgians, civil rights organizations, as well as the many leaders in the entertainment industry and private sector who condemned this attack on the fundamental rights of LGBT people, and he has set an example for other elected officials to follow,” Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement.
Social conservatives, however, accused Deal of flinching in the face of liberal opposition. Among those who immediately expressed disappointment via Twitter was Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission at the Southern Baptist Convention.
Georgia is not the only state contending with a backlash over legislation considered anti-gay. North Carolina last week enacted a law reversing civil rights protections for gay and transgender people that had been passed in Charlotte and requires transgender people to use restrooms that correspond with their genders on their birth certificates. The law, which was introduced, passed and signed by Gov. Pat McCrory (R) on the same day, also provoked criticism from businesses and sports leagues, including the National Basketball Association, which threatened to move next year’s All-Star game out of the state.