Religious Freedom Bill Passes in Georgia, But May Face Governor's Veto

Posted: Mar 19, 2016 12:00 PM

The Religious Liberty Bill does not have a controversial name, but its contents have caused much debate between proponents of religious freedom and same-sex marriage supporters. Similar to the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that caused a stir in Indiana last year and even put a local pizza maker in the news as she and her dad fought to keep their restaurant's doors open, House Bill 757 is front and center in Georgia.

House Bill 757, which passed the Georgia legislature Wednesday night, would allow pastors to refuse to marry same-sex couples, permit churches, religious schools to refuse to host events for anyone who doesn’t share their beliefs and allow faith-based employers to deny hiring someone for the same reason.

Opponents of the bill argue it is discriminatory against homosexuals.

“The decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse,” the Human Rights Campaign, which represents the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, said in a statement.

“It’s appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia,” it said.

The bill has given Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal a lot to think about. While the Republican governor believes in the right to religious freedom, he is uncomfortable with the thought of local businesses denying service to customers because of their sexuality.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution describes the governor’s “long and complicated” relationship with the bill.

Deal insists his discomfort with the legislation is rooted in biblical principles.

In remarkably stark terms, the governor said he would reject any measure that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.” Rooting his critique in biblical terms, he urged fellow Republicans to take a deep breath and “recognize that the world is changing around us.”

“We do not have a belief in my way of looking at religion that says we have to discriminate against anybody,” he said. “If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit.”

Luckily for Deal, he’ll have until May 3 to make the decision.