Governor Nathan Deal has announced that he will veto a bill passed by Georgia’s Senate and House that purported to protect the “religious freedom” of the state’s citizens, but in practice would have given faith-based organizations legal rights to discriminate.
The “religious freedom” in jeopardy was actually “enacting inequality under the guise of godly self-righteousness”: No one wants to take anyone’s religion away, but plenty of wise people would prefer other people’s beliefs not impede their happiness and access to services enjoyed by heterosexual people without question or thought. Life is hard and miserable enough without formally sanctioned discrimination.
The measure “doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people,” the governor said Monday, urging state legislators should leave freedom of religion and freedom of speech to the U.S. Constitution.
“Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it would allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment,” he said.
The two-term Republican has been besieged by all sides over the controversial measure, and his office has received thousands of emails and hundreds of calls on the debate. The tension was amplified by a steady stream of corporate titans who urged him to veto the bill – and threatened to pull investments from Georgia if it became law.
I want you to understand, this legislation is about equal protection and not discrimination. It only impacts the government’s interaction with faith-based organizations or a person who holds faith-based, sincerely held beliefs as it relates to marriage.
It’s funny how often you hear the phrase “sincerely held beliefs” in this context, as though earnestness bespeaks morality, as though LGBT people should assess this like, “I wasn’t on board with you thinking that I am inherently inferior to you until I realized that you were sincere. Now I understand. You really mean this! My bad.”
As for next steps, AJC reports:
Already, several conservative lawmakers have owed to call for a “veto session” to rebuke the governor if he rejects the measure. It takes a three-fifth majority in both chambers to call a special session, and a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override a veto — a threshold the bill failed to reach by one vote in the Senate and 16 in the House.
“There are enough votes in the Senate to override,” predicted state Sen. Brandon Beach, an Alpharetta Republican facing a tough primary challenge who supported the measure. “I don’t know about the House, though.”
The governor, who didn’t take any questions after his remarks, anticipated the pushback.
“I don’t respond well to insults or threats,” he said.
This is one of several examples of lawmakers pursuing discriminatory “religious freedom” laws as a backlash to the Supreme Court’s marriage equality ruling last summer. This is happening in over 20 states—for a good rundown, read Michelangelo Signorile’s Huffington Post piece “How a Ferocious Backlash to LGBT Equality Is in Full Force While Leaders Have No Strategy.” People are having a really hard time giving up their formerly government-sanctioned feelings of supremacy. How sad for them, how terrifying for LGBT Americans.