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Georgia Governor Announces He Will Veto Religious Liberty Bill

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has done what many expected he would do after a long battle over the state’s controversial “religious liberty” bill, HB 757, vetoing it in the face of growing opposition to the measure by some of the biggest names in American business.

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Deal, in a press conference held earlier today at the state Capitol, said the bill does not reflect appropriately on a state comprised of “warm, friendly and loving people.” Said Deal, “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. For that reason, I will veto HB 757.”

It is expected that the veto will sour relations between the governor and many state conservatives who had been putting great emphasis on the effort to pass the measure. Although Deal’s initiatives since taking office have been decidedly conservative in makeup, the veto is clearly an abrupt reversal of that trend, and will unquestionably alienate the evangelical wing of the Republican Party in Georgia, which is substantial. Many proponents saw the final version of HB 757 as very modest in its tone, and something that should have found favor with the governor on that basis. The measure sought to protect clergy in the event they should decide against performing marriage ceremonies “in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion,” and would have also protected “property owners which are religious institutions against infringement of religious freedom.”

However, the governor, who had campaigned largely on a pro-business platform, faced calls to veto the bill from some of America’s largest corporations. Disney, Apple, Time Warner, and Intel were among many asking the governor to reject the legislation, and the National Football League said only recently that should the bill become law, it would jeopardize the league’s interest in seeing Atlanta host a Super Bowl in the near term.

For their part, leading conservatives in the Georgia legislature have already said they will seek to override the veto, and, failing that, plan to renew their efforts at passing a similar measure sometime next year.

 By Robert G. Yetman, Jr. Editor At Large