Georgia governor to veto ‘religious liberty’ bill

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Under increasing pressure from major corporations that do business in Georgia, Gov. Nathan Deal announced Monday he will veto a bill that critics say would have curtailed the rights of Georgia’s LGBT community.

House Bill 757 would have given faith-based organizations in Georgia the option to deny services and jobs to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Supporters said the measure was meant to protect religious freedom, while opponents have described it as “anti-LGBT” and “appalling.”

In a news conference, Deal said he was not reacting to pressure from the faith-based community, of which he counts himself a member. Likewise, he said he wasn’t responding to the business community, which warned Georgia could lose jobs if he signed the bill.

His decision, he said, 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.”

Deal said he found it ironic that some people acknowledge that God grants the freedoms enumerated in the First Amendment, but want the government to enact laws to secure those rights.

“Perhaps we should heed the hands-off admonition of the First Amendment,” he said.

After it passed both houses of the state legislature, the measure was met by outcries from major players in the business, tech and entertainment industries.

The CEO of Salesforce said the company “can’t have a program in Georgia” if Deal signs it into law. Disney said it would stop filming in the state and Unilever said it would “reconsider investment” if it was signed.

The NFL said the bill could cost Atlanta the opportunity to host the Super Bowl.

More than a dozen states have approved similar laws in the past year.

Also on Monday, a federal lawsuit was filed against the North Carolina governor and other state officials over a new law there that blocks transgender individuals from using public bathrooms that match their gender identity and stops cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances to protect gay and transgender people.

Two transgender men, a lesbian, the American Civil Liberties Union of North Carolina and Equality North Carolina want a judge to declare the state law, House Bill 2, unconstitutional and a violation of federal laws banning sex discrimination.

The suit was filed Monday in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina. The defendants are Gov. Pat McCrory, state Attorney General Roy Cooper III, the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina and board Chairman W. Louis Bissette Jr. Two of the plaintiffs are university system employees, and one is a university student.