Today, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed House Bill 757, a discriminatory bill that would have invited private businesses, individuals and medical and social services agencies to discriminate against anyone in Georgia on religious grounds. Lambda Legal issued the following statement from Southern Regional Director Simone Bell:
"Today we feel very fortunate that LGBT people and people with living with HIV were spared the terrible consequences of HB 757. We applaud today's veto by Governor Deal and thank him for his willingness to listen to the voices explaining the damage this bill could have caused. In the end, Governor Deal did not allow hate and fear-mongering to dictate state policy; instead he chose to act reasonably and with compassion and demonstrated that equality is a Georgia value. He listened to the business community, hundreds of ministers, and tens of thousands of Georgians who opposed the bill. Freedom of religion does not give any of us permission to discriminate against others.
HB 757 would have allowed anyone to use religion to treat LGBT people, and others, unfairly and to ignore anti-discrimination policies. As is always the case when discriminatory laws target LGBT people and people living with HIV Lambda Legal is poised to defend the rights of our community.
"But this is far from over. LGBT Georgians need strong and effective protections in both employment and public accommodations 21 states provide such protections against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and 17 on the basis of gender identity, and we need to add Georgia to the list."
Lambda Legal is a member of Georgia Unites, a bipartisan grassroots campaign dedicated to protecting gay and transgender Georgians from discrimination and ensuring that individuals and businesses aren't able to use their religious beliefs to harm others.
WASHINGTON Following weeks of pressure, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced this morning he will veto H.B. 757, a deeply discriminatory bill that passed the state legislature. The legislation, which sparked a massive backlash of opposition from a broad array of civil rights groups and leaders in Hollywood and corporate America, would have weakened local non-discrimination protections, allowed businesses to discriminate and deny service to LGBT people, and explicitly empowered discrimination by taxpayer-funded religious organizations.
Deal's veto comes one week after HRC President Chad Griffin called on Hollywood to stop productions in Georgia if Deal refused to veto the legislation at HRC's Los Angeles Gala. Soon after, many of the biggest entertainment companies in the world responded to the call including 21st Century Fox, AMC Networks, CBS Corp., Comcast NBCUniversal, Lionsgate, Live Nation, MGM, Netflix, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Starz, The Walt Disney Co., Time Warner, The Weinstein Company and Viacom. And more than thirty leading actors, directors, producers, musicians, and agents signed HRC's letter demanding that he veto the proposal.
"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," said HRC President Chad Griffin. "Today, Governor Deal heard the voices of Georgians, civil rights organizations, as well as the many leaders in the entertainment industry and private sector who condemned this attack on the fundamental rights of LGBT people, and he has set an example for other elected officials to follow. Discrimination and intolerance have no place in the United States of America, and we hope North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory and the North Carolina General Assembly are paying close attention to what has transpired in Georgia. They must undo their disgraceful attack on LGBT people in the state's upcoming legislative session."
According to the State of Georgia, which offers major tax incentives for entertainment companies to film in the state, at least 248 film and television productions were shot in Georgia during the state's 2015 fiscal year. This resulted in at least $1.7 billion in direct spending as well as more than 100 new businesses relocating to or expanding in Georgia to support these activities. The only two states where the entertainment industry does more business New York and California already have a statewide LGBT non-discrimination provisions on the books. Georgia does not.
In addition to the entertainment industry's leadership, corporate opposition to the discriminatory law in Georgia was overwhelming. It has included Apple, the Atlanta Braves, the Atlanta Falcons, the Atlanta Hawks, Cisco, Dell, the Dow Chemical Company, the Georgia Chamber of Commerce, Hilton, Intel, Intercontinental Hotels, Live Nation Entertainment, Marriott, MailChimp, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, Microsoft, the NFL, Paypal, Salesforce, Square, Turner, Twitter, Unilever, Virgin, Yelp, and many others.
Gov. Deal will join South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard as the second Republican state executive to veto an anti-LGBT bill this month. Unfortunately, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory, also a Republican, made history last week when he signed into law a radical measure that enshrined discrimination against LGBT North Carolinians into state law, forces transgender students in public schools to use restrooms and other facilities inconsistent with their gender identity, and eliminates the ability of cities and towns across the state from passing local ordinances to protect their residents from discrimination. In their push for the measure, proponents of the law spewed dangerous lies about transgender people accessing bathrooms.
Georgia is among a majority of states that lack explicit LGBT non-discrimination protections. Nonpartisan polling from Public Religion Research Institute released this year found that a majority of Georgians oppose allowing businesses to discriminate and deny service to LGBT people only 37 percent support such a bill and 57 percent oppose. Georgians also reported that they support protecting LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing and access to public services by an overwhelming 66-28 margin.
Prior to the veto, HRC and Georgia Unites delivered more than 75,000 email petitions to Georgia Governor Nathan Deal urging him to veto this legislation.
Working to stop such reckless and discriminatory legislation, HRC is proud to be fighting alongside local advocates as part of Georgia Unites Against Discrimination a joint project of HRC and Georgia Equality dedicated to protecting LGBT Georgians from discrimination and ensuring that individuals and businesses aren't able to use religious beliefs as an excuse to harm others.