Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday said he will veto legislation shielding opponents of same-sex marriage, after a groundswell of opposition from companies threatening to boycott the state if it became law.
he Republican announced his decision during a news conference in his office at the Georgia Capitol, saying, “I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state.”
Deal added, “I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia.”
Republican majorities passed the bill to broadly protect people whose actions were rooted in their religion. It also would have protected clergy who won’t perform gay marriages and people who won’t attend a wedding for religious reasons.
Churches and affiliated religious groups could have used their faith as an argument for refusing to serve or hire someone.
The bill’s opponents said it excused discrimination and could trample local ordinances protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
Coca-Cola and other big-name Georgia companies joined the NFL, prominent Hollywood figures and film studios urging Deal to reject the proposal. Some threatened to boycott the state if Deal didn’t veto.
Deal, in his second and final term, heatedly said that those threats and questions about “my convictions and my character” from some in the religious community were misguided.
“I do not respond very well to insults or to threats,” he said. “The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will make sound judgments based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion.”
Deal said he would sign the bill had it passed in its original form, which was limited to protecting clergy who declined to perform same-sex marriages. He said his decision to reject the bill 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.”