Less than a week after Disney threatened to take its business elsewhere, and numerous other companies suggested they might follow suit, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has opted to veto the ‘religious liberty bill’ which was on his desk.
Passed in mid-March, the bill would have allowed discrimination against members of the LGBT community amongst others – permitting that “religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion”. It also would allow faith-based organizations to not hire or provide services to those who “violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
Deal had until early May to make the decision about whether to either veto or sign the bill into law. Disney last week came out strongly against the bill, asserting it would “take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.” Many others quickly followed including Time Warner, Netflix, CBS, Fox, Sony Pictures, Amblin Partners, NBCUniversal, Discovery, Open Road Films, The Weinstein Company, Lionsgate, MGM, AMC, and Tyler Perry Studios.
Deal said in a statement about the decision that he understands the concerns of the religious community about being “forced” to take or perform actions which go against their sincerely held religious beliefs. However, he also says: “there has not been a single instance of such taking place in Georgia” with supporters citing just two examples from other states with legislated statues that “specifically protected their citizens from adverse actions based on their sexual orientation”. Georgia has no such statues.
He then goes on to say the version of the bill on his desk “contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination” and that this whole situation illustrates “how difficult it is to legislate on something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment of the United State Constitution.” He takes a polite swipe at supporters of the discriminatory language in the bill, saying:
“I find it ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask government to confer upon them certain rights and protections. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should need the ‘hands-off’ admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution.”
In his summation he also spoke against both sides who’ve gotten on their soapbox about this issue:
“Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character. Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats.
The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will made sound judgments based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion. That is what I intend to do. 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…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.”
Disney praised Deal’s decision today in a statement, a spokesperson saying: “We applaud Governor Deal for making the right decision on this piece of legislation and look forward to continuing our film production in Georgia.”