Georgia Governor to Veto Anti-Gay Bill Amid Hollywood Pressure

Nathan Deal isn’t prepared to lose TV and film production over “religious freedom” legislation — though he says it wasn’t business pressure

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Monday he will veto the anti-gay Free Exercise Protection Act that has recently been making headlines far beyond the borders of his home state. Clearly, the Hollywood heat is being felt in the South’s spring.

House Bill 757 “doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people,” the Republican governor explained in a written statement.

“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives,” Deal wrote. “Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia.”

Deal’s decision is not likely to increase his popularity among Peach State conservatives, but it could keep about a billion dollars in annual Hollywood spending in Georgia. In return, the state gives production companies a few hundred million bucks in tax credits to incentivize the high-profile local economic boon.

Hollywood companies have led fiery opposition to the state House- and Senate-passed bill, which basically would have allowed religious organizations to discriminate against homosexuals. The votes weren’t even close at those lower levels of local government.

But then Disney, The Weinstein Company and Netflix all vowed to withdraw current productions from the popular destination. Droves of other media companies urged Deal to veto the bill, but with vaguer consequences. And here we are, awaiting the official “Veto” stamp now.

Here are some highlights from Deal’s remarks:
Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character. Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. 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. That is what I intend to do.

As I’ve said before, I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives. Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia.

This is about the character of our State and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming State filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.

Read Deal’s full decision in his own words here.

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