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Georgia governor to veto religious exemptions bill

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Monday he planned to veto House Bill 757, a “religious freedom” bill, which broadly protected opponents of same-sex marriage.

“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia,” the Republican governor said in a news conference today, adding that the bill worked against Georgia’s reputation as a “welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people.”

Under HB 757, faith-based groups would have been able to deny services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people or anyone who violated their “sincerely held religious belief,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. The bill would have allowed religious groups the refusal to hire or retain someone who didn’t align with the same beliefs.

Republican-controlled state legislature passed the bill two weeks ago, hours after it surfaced. Opponents of the bill, including gay rights groups and businesses, were quick to criticize the bill. The National Football League and Hollywood studios, like Disney and AMC Networks, threatened to boycott the state if the bill was enacted, while gay rights advocates said the bill allowed discrimination against LGBT individuals.

“Our message to Governor Nathan Deal was loud and clear: this deplorable legislation was bad for his constituents, bad for business, and bad for Georgia’s future,” HRC President Chad Griffin said in a statement to Reuters.

Deal said, on top of the boycott threats, the religious community lobbied insults that questioned “my moral convictions and my character.” The governor responded, “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,” he said.

Lawmakers can request a special session to override the governor’s veto, but it will require a three-fifths majority in both chambers of the state legislature.

In neighboring state North Carolina, a new law restricts protections for gay, lesbian and transgender people by repealing a city ordinance that would allow inclusive bathrooms. In addition, the law bars any city from passing anti-discrimination legislation.

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