Georgia governor vetoes religious liberty bill denounced as anti-gay

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Georgia Governor Nathan Deal speaks to the media at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 30, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tami Chappell
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GEORGIA-LGBT, originally transmitted on March 28, 2016.

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal speaks to the media at the State Capitol in Atlanta, Georgia, on January 30, 2014. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Tami Chappell *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-GEORGIA-LGBT, originally transmitted on March 28, 2016.

Was it the Hollywood threat to boycott Georgia or the NFL threat to withhold a Super Bowl?

Gov. Nathan Deal didn’t say  as he vetoed a bill on Monday (March 28) that a chorus of major studios, sports leagues and business leaders denounced as legalizing discrimination against gay people.

Instead, Deal cited the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the First Amendment, the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, and the fact that the “religious liberty” bill proposed to fix a problem that didn’t exist in Georgia, when he posted his veto message on his website.

“Therefore, as I have examined the protections this bill seeks to provide to religious organizations and people of faith I can find no examples that any of the things this bill seeks to protect us against have ever occurred in Georgia,” he said.

“I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia,” he added.

As for all the threats over the last two weeks since the legislation was passed, Deal dismissed them outright.

Previously, Deal, a Republican, had said positive things about the bill, which would have allowed people and businesses to deny services to gay people if it was based on religious belief.

The prospect was so alarming the NFL hinted a threat to sack Atlanta for a future Super Bowl, and a host of Hollywood studios, stars and filmmakers rushed last week to threaten to evacuate their $1 billion business from “Hollywood South.”

Deal said the bill allowed outsiders to cast doubt on the character of Georgia and Georgians.

“Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people,” he said. “Our people work side by side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to…That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.”

Deal said the nation’s founders thought it unnecessary to enumerate in statue or constitution the definition of religious liberty.

“In light of our history, I find it ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask government to confer upon them certain rights and protections,” he said. “If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should need the ‘hands off’ admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution.”

Gay-rights groups, such as Human Rights Campaign, celebrated the veto.

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Republican majorities passed the bill to broadly protect people acting on their religion, to, say, refuse to cater a gay wedding. It also would have protected clergy who refuse to perform gay marriages and people who won’t attend a wedding for religious reasons. Churches and religious groups strongly supported the bill.

Meanwhile, North Carolina will have to defend in court a bill barring cities and countries from trying to protect gay and transgender people. The law was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory last week.

On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union and state gay organizations filed a lawsuit in federal court challenging the law, which bars transgender people from using the bathrooms of their choice, as unconstitutional.

“It  sends a purposeful message that LGBT people are second-class citizens who are undeserving of the privacy, respect, and protections afforded others in the state,” the complainants said in a press release. They argued that the law violates the Fourteenth Amendment because it discriminates on the basis of sex and sexual orientation and is an invasion of privacy for transgender people. The law also violates Title IX by discriminating against students and school employees on the basis of sex.

“(The law) is hurtful and demeaning….This law puts me in the terrible position of either going into the women’s room where I clearly don’t belong or breaking the law,” said plaintiff Joaquín Carcaño. “But this is about more than bathrooms, this is about my job, my community, and my ability to get safely through my day and be productive like everyone else in North Carolina.”

Contributing: The Associated Press

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  • Doc Anthony

    Maria Puente’s lead sentence told the entire truth.

    Naturally Gov. Deal wants to save face, hence his careful backpedaling. But everybody knows the score, and who won, and why.

    The reality Is that American Christians are trapped. Not even a Christian governor or conservative state legislature can help them anymore. Constitutional Religious Freedom in America has finally been repealed, (1) by the Supreme Court, and (2) by Corporations and Big Business.

    Individual Christians, including Christian small businessmen and families, much NOW decide how much they’re willing to PAY, to live in accordance with the Bible they say they believe in. No escape.

    Refusing to participate in celebrations/affirmations known to directly oppose clear Biblical teachings (such as refusal to bake a gay wedding cake) can mean the end of one’s Christian bakery, floral shop, portrait studio, etc, as has already happened in many states. Georgia is now on that list.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    I would really like to know how being able to refuse service to persons a business person feels are not as good as they are is in any sense related to Christianity or any religion at all. to operate a flower shop, a bakery, a bed -n- breakfast, etc., is not an exercise of religion.

    And “…Christians are trapped…”? Spare us the hyperbole. You do not have a right to dominate no matter what religion you are. What you are feeling is not concerning your faith. Many Christian-owned businesses treat their LGBT customers with respect. Those who do not are not in any sense acting based on their religion. It seems what’s wanted is not religious freedom, but the right to be a [name of an orifice goes here] without suffering any consequences for it. You have all the freedom you need to do whatever you want to do; you just need to realize there are consequences for hateful actions.

  • Your religious rights do not supersede the rights of anyone else. You seem to need much more practice of your religion. You’ll get better at it, and learn along the way. In the mean time, try to get along as Jesus tried so hard to teach you.

  • Excellent reply!

  • G Key

    Christians have lost nothing but the “right” to wrong their peers.

    Deciding what to provide or deny others based upon their private bedroom activities? How oppressive. And how obsessive.

    (Note that very few Christians believe in this. Maybe the two sides should hold a conference to work this out amongst themselves.)

    If loss of accustomed privilege feels like deprivation, remember that it’s really just sharing.

  • Doc Anthony

    It’s really straightforward; there’s NO hyperbole on this one.

    It’s simply a matter of Googling all the incidents of **here’s-what-happens-to-Christians-who-refuse-to-bow-and-kowtow**, that have been clearly documented in Indiana, Washington, Colorado, New Mexico, Oregon, Illinois Minnesota, upstate New York, etc.

    Nobody’s making this stuff up, folks. It’s all too real, and it’s happening right now.

    I’ll serve anybody a birthday cake, gay or straight, but Christians have the constitutional right NOT to be forced to participate in celebrations/ rituals/affirmations that directly oppose Christianity. (Such as LGBT marriage!)

    Your own constitutional religious liberties (even if you’re an Atheist) are being REPEALED in front of you. And if you’re a Christian, you already know that this is true.

    Meanwhile, your state government is now helpless to stand for your rights, as we all saw in Indiana and Georgia. So Stand-and-Fight, or Bow-and-Kowtow!!

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Doc is being deceptive. Again. It’s the anti-gays who are targeting same gender couples and their children. “Sweet Cakes by Melissa” owners, the Kleins, were fined $135K, not just because they violated Oregon law, but because they incited a Hate Crime against the couple who wanted a cake and their child by posting the family’s home address and other identifying information at several anti-gay and right-wing websites online. The Kleins received over 3 times the amount of their fine from their free lawyers, the “Alliance Defending Freedom Of Faith.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    A group of anti-gay lawyers from the “Alliance Defending Freedom Of Faith” just can’t accept that laws banning public accommodations discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation are settled law. This “Alliance” is going around the country seeking to incite anti-gay bakers, photographers, florists, and other wedding industry suppliers to target same gender couples, attack them and violate these laws, promising to defend the anti-gays in court and the media for free and pay any fines involved BEFORE these crimes are committed. These “Alliance” lawyers are involved in ALL these cases. And then anti-gays dishonestly claim LGBT Americans are targeting THEM!

    Want proof? This “Alliance” admit all that at their website.

  • G Key

    The article’s assertion that the bill “would have protected clergy who refuse to perform gay marriages and people who won’t attend a wedding for religious reasons” is grossly erroneous.

    The clergy’s right, when acting as clergy, to refuse to perform holy matrimony to any couple for religious reasons is neither threatened nor vulnerable. Its protection is enshrined in the U.S. constitution. But ministers who are county clerks, when acting as county clerks, must issue county marriage licenses to all eligible couples. The private lives of those couples are none of the clerks’ business.

    As for “people who won’t attend a wedding for religious reasons”, the idea that invitees are legally required to attend is laughable. However, florists, caterers, bakers, etc., who sell wedding products & services, are not invitees. They are for-profit businesses that serve the public, and the private lives of those public customers are none of the businesses’ business.

  • Abu

    Marriage was always a function of religion. Up until fairly recently, the government stayed out of it. Some bureaucrat thought it was a good idea to regulate marriage. How can mankind regulate what is God’s business?

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Sorry, wrong:

    “When did people start marrying?

    The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4,000 years ago, in Mesopotamia. In the ancient world, marriage served primarily as a means of preserving power, with kings and other members of the ruling class marrying off daughters to forge alliances, acquire land, and produce legitimate heirs. Even in the lower classes, women had little say over whom they married. The purpose of marriage was the production of heirs, as implied by the Latin word matrimonium, which is derived from mater (mother).”


  • CarrotCakeMan


    “When did the church get involved?
    In ancient Rome, marriage was a civil affair governed by imperial law. But when the empire collapsed, in the 5th century, church courts took over and elevated marriage to a holy union. As the church’s power grew through the Middle Ages, so did its influence over marriage. In 1215, marriage was declared one of the church’s seven sacraments, alongside rites like baptism and penance. But it was only in the 16th century that the church decreed that weddings be performed in public, by a priest, and before witnesses.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Same source:

    “Same-sex unions aren’t a recent invention. Until the 13th century, male-bonding ceremonies were common in churches across the Mediterranean. Apart from the couples’ gender, these events were almost indistinguishable from other marriages of the era. Twelfth-century liturgies for same-sex unions — also known as “spiritual brotherhoods” — included the recital of marriage prayers, the joining of hands at the altar, and a ceremonial kiss. Some historians believe these unions were merely a way to seal alliances and business deals. But Eric Berkowitz, author of Sex and Punishment, says it is “difficult to believe that these rituals did not contemplate erotic contact. In fact, it was the sex between the men involved that later caused same-sex unions to be banned.” That happened in 1306, when the Byzantine Emperor Andronicus II declared such ceremonies, along with sorcery and incest, to be unchristian.”

    Even homophobia is relatively new.

  • CarrotCakeMan


    “Marriages in the West were originally contracts between the families of two partners, with the Catholic Church and the state staying out of it. In 1215, the Catholic Church decreed that partners had to publicly post banns, or notices of an impending marriage in a local parish, to cut down on the frequency of invalid marriages (the Church eliminated that requirement in the 1980s). Still, until the 1500s, the Church accepted a couple’s word that they had exchanged marriage vows, with no witnesses or corroborating evidence needed.”

  • So. You can put a legal gun to some Christian minister’s head and force him to participate in a ceremony that he honestly and seriously believes to be morally repugnant. Apparently, you can, in fact, establish a religion in this country as long as your religion preaches government-approved doctrines and beliefs.

    Congratulations on officially killing the First Amendment, Nate.

    One more thing, Nate. I hope you enjoy the rest of your term and have a job lined up in the private sector. Because gutless, sniveling cowards generally don’t win reelection in this country.

  • G Key

    It depends upon what you mean by “always”, “recently”, “regulate” (remember “that which is Caesar’s”?), and “God’s business”.

    Your religion’s holy matrimony isn’t affected by other religions’ and secular marriages of your equals. Those who want weddings at your place of worship can still have them, subject to the constitutionally protected religious restrictions which your religion still has the right to enforce.

    However, your religion has no monopoly on marriage. This, of course, allows people who aren’t affiliated with your religion to marry via their religion’s or secular means, thereby affording them the same governmental (nonreligious) benefits provided to couples who wed within your religion.

    If, however, you still feel your religious freedom is being oppressed, I refer you to “When you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression” at

  • Abu

    Government involvement for marriage in the USA began in the mid 19th Century. Up until that point it, was largely all taken care of at religious institutions. A “man and a woman” went to their religious leaders for all of this. No need to bring up the ancient Greeks or Romans to try and legitimize homosexual activity.

  • yoh

    Wrong about that as well Abu. The role of judges, ship captains and justices of the peace to perform marriages has been around in the US from colonial days. No religious affiliation required. Marriages always needed to be recorded by civil authorities when possible.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Sorry, Abu, but you’re just repeating a standard anti-gay deception. You aren’t “defending religious freedom,” you’re spamming this board with a lie in an desperate effort to revive the failed, repudiated anti-gay political agenda. Despite your claims, we know anti-gays denied Freedom Of Religion to the many denominations, Christian and Jewish, who want to marry same gender American couples until the Supreme Court’s “Obergefel” ruling, namely:

    Affirming Pentecostal Church International
    Alliance of Christian Churches
    Anointed Affirming Independent Ministries
    The Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists
    Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
    Community of Christ
    Conservative Judaism
    Ecumenical Catholic Church
    Ecumenical Catholic Communion
    The Episcopal Church
    Evangelical Anglican Church In America
    Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
    Global Alliance of Affirming Apostolic Pentecostals
    Inclusive Orthodox Church
    Moravian Church Northern Province


  • CarrotCakeMan


    Metropolitan Community Church
    Old Catholic Church
    Presbyterian Church USA
    Progressive Christian Alliance
    Reconciling Pentecostals International
    Reconstructionist Judaism
    Reform Judaism
    Reformed Anglican Catholic Church
    Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)
    Unitarian Universalist Church
    United Church of Christ
    Unity Church

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Please also note that while the subject here is marriage, and even Abu wrote about marriage, but he used the epithet “homosexual” to demean, demonize and dehumanize same gender American married couples. However, by revealing when the subject is marriage, that he thinks of “gay sex,” Abu only demeaned himself–and the anti-gay political agenda.

    Anti-gays persist in using that epithet, in a failed effort to make normal, non-homophobic Americans think about “gay sex,” but most Americans just laugh at that anti-gay excess, and the AP Style Manual now forbids the use of that epithet other than in a direct quote. The New York Times explained before that why they refuse to allow that epithet otherwise in their pages:

  • Gino

    First — CarrotCakeMan — thanks for your postings and links.

    Second, I suspect the reason for Governor Neal’s veto is something like this: He can’t run for another term. He can be honest. Now, finally, Neal can say what he really believes without having to cater to extremists and bigots while other Georgia politicians cannot.

  • Ben in oakland


    You are wrong about that as well. You will find that marriages were civil matters in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. Civil marriage was the rule in Europe since at least 1800 or so, and is the rule throughout a good portion of the west. .

  • Ben in oakland

    No, you can’t put a legal gun to any ministers head in this matter. There has not been one single example of that happening in this or any other country that has marriage equality. For that matter, not one Catholic priest has ever been forced to perform a marriage for someone who is not Catholic, or is divorced.

    Here’s the difference. such a requirement would mean that a minister is HIMSELF forced to perform a marriage he disagrees with. Your handful of martyrbaters like florists and bakers are merely claiming participation in an event which they are providing a product for. It is in the imagination of their dark hearts that they claim to be “involved.”

    I was a high end wedding photographer for 30 years. At no time would I ever have called myself a participant. There were people whose weddings I did not wish to photograph. There are plenty of legal ways not to pretend to participate.

    Starting with IM BOOKED. Call so and so.

  • Ben in oakland

    You really ought to inform yourself about what people believe. Try using the power of the Google “religions that support same sex marriage.”

    But in any case, we are talking about CIVIL MARRIAGE. If your religion thinks being gay is a sin, have at it. I’m not a member of your faith.

  • Debbo

    Abu, pay attention. Did you read the list of Christian Churches and Jewish Synagogues which welcome and marry folks regardless of sexuality? The demonizing the same sex relationships is a relatively new thing in the 2 millennia history of Christianity. No “fudging” was necessary when they corrected past errors. Carrot Cake Man has done a wonderful service providing historical perspective. Read it again.

    Most of all, I wish you’d think about why LBTG folks are so upsetting to you. You can correct your own past errors.

  • Ben in oakland

    No it doesn’t. The list that CCM mentions is only a partial one. He didn’t include the state churches of the Scandinavian countries, for example.

    I wuspect you didn’t actually Google a thing.

    By the way, each and every religion you mention Condemns the other religions for not having the proper beliefs about God and his message to the world. They are willing to live with each other, especially since secular law usually forbids the killings they used to do.

    The fact that, in your mind at least, they can agree that they hate gay gay people and deny our rights to live in their world as gay people says a lot more about the nature of their beliefs about homosexuality than it says about the truths of their faiths,

  • ben in oakland

    And you are wrong yet again.

    Catholics in this country support gay rights. Orthodox Judaism in this country is not particularly influential. And even they are slowly changing.

    You can trot out the “No True Christian” fallacy all you like. It’s still a fallacy.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Doc wrote, “It’s simply a matter of Googling all the incidents”

    Then why don’t you show us that alleged documentation?

    Anti-gays are always claiming their intended LGBT victims are “bullying” their anti-gay attackers, but never provide any evidence for that unsubstantiated claim.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Correct! We’re always hearing anti-gay churches seeking publicity for their unsubstantiated claims of being “persecuted,” for their opposition to marriage equality, but it’s always important to remember they are the ones who actually persecuted the many American churches that have wanted to marry same gender American couples and denied their Freedom Of Religion until last summer’s US Supreme Court ruling.

  • CarrotCakeMan


    Thank you.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Ben, you’re correct about lay American Catholics. From the same poll:

    “And while the Catholic Church officially opposes the legalization of same-sex marriage, about six in ten white (61 percent), Hispanic (60 percent), and other non-white Catholics (60 percent) support allowing gay and lesbian couples to marry legally. A majority of orthodox Christians (56 percent) also support same-sex marriage.

    The most supportive major religious groups are Buddhists (84 percent), Jews (77 percent), and Americans who select “Other religion” (75 percent); additionally, more than three-quarters (77 percent) of the religiously unaffiliated also support same-sex marriage.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    That’s the whole problem with the anti-gay bakers and florists, Ben. Since they already know they won’t pay one red cent for their crimes, because the “Alliance Defending Freedom Of Faith” has agreed to pay for everything, these anti-gay bakers, etc., never say, “Sorry, I’m all booked for that date.” Instead, each of these anti-gays has attacked the same gender couples in writing, even inciting a Hate Crime against one same gender couple and their child. These written attacks are how the anti-gays are always convicted–the Alliance wants those convictions, in a desperate effort to convince the US Supreme Court to revoke anti-discrimination laws. The efforts of the “Alliance” took place before Scalia’s death, of course. I’m hoping the “Alliance” will back down, now that they have no hope of success with the Supreme Court.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    Doc, that’s ridiculous. No one is infringing on those people’s religion. But being a bigot is not a religious act. Society sets the bar for what is acceptable. In this case TPTB (“The Powers That Be”) in the business community told Governor Deal “No Deal.” Bigotry is bad for business. Watch North Carolina suffer for having permitted such terrible legislation and quite rightfully so.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    So, in other words, like a lot of the rest of right-wing ideology, it’s a money-making scam.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    The First Amendment is not an issue here as violating others’ civil rights is not an act of “speech” as one of business. You can say whatever you want to LGBTQ couples in public, but if you are in business, you must treat them like any other couple. To not do so is not a decision informed by religion, but by bigotry.

    As to Deal, he’s term-limited out so he had the freedom to do what is right without worrying about re-election. Usually retired Governors and Congressmen have a fine little nest egg. Of course, if not, he could always switch back to the Democrats and run for the Senate. He’d beat Paul Broun or whatever other right-wing idiot the Rethuglicans throw up, after this. He’s a hero to business and human rights!

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Mr. Shuler, I wish we could find a way so that those North Carolina residents who are innocent of this obviously unconstitutional law won’t suffer because of the misdeed of the members of the “Gay Obsessed Party.”

    Anti-gays have been wasting our tax dollars on their failed political agenda for many years now. Surely there’s a good way we can at least hold anti-gays jointly and severally responsible for that waste of tax dollars. Right now, even LGBT Americans are forced to subsidize the anti-gay political agenda.

  • yoh

    It certainly doesn’t help your cause when you stump for discrimination and can’t for the life of you cough up rational and secular purposes behind laws meant to attack gays.

    Maybe if people like yourself weren’t so focused on looking for legalized ways to act like malicious dbags towards gays maybe you would not look so unsympathetic.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Correct. The owners of “Sweet Cakes By Melissa” received 3 times the amount of their fine–and even then, they refused to pay their fine for several months. Anti-gays claim the Kleins had to shut down their business–but in fact, while they closed the storefront they rented, they moved their business into their home, where they could operate with less public scrutiny.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Abu has actually stated a partial truth. It’s true that the mass media will no longer slavishly repeat the lies anti-gays have been telling since Anita Bryant’s handlers invented those lies, and will now quote LGBT Americans, but that isn’t because LGBT Americans control the media. That claim by Abu was as obviously false as the routine right-wing claim that the (corporate owned) media is “left wing.”

    It’s also true that in some states, “education” teaches the facts about LGBT Americans and forbids anti-gay Hate Speech in some US States’ public schools, but, once again, it isn’t because LGBT Americans control education.

    Here is why LGBT now have respect:

    “Sixty percent of Americans now support same-sex marriage, as the Supreme Court prepares to rule on its constitutionality next month. This is up from 55% last year and is the highest Gallup has found on the question since it was first asked in 1996.”

  • CarrotCakeMan

    It’s very sad to see Abu try to drag all religious people worldwide down to the level of anti-gays.

  • Ben in oakland

    I have a terrific idea for these poor, persecuted, so called Christians.

    Do what your churches do: Take the sinners’ money.

    And if that isn’t enough for you, you can do what else your churches do. Use that money to fund anti-gay political organizations.

    And if that isn’t enough for you, then refuse to take the money of all unrepentant sinners. Of course, you WILL have to ask them about their sins, and whether they have repented to your satisfaction. But don’t accept their word for it: after all, Bristol Palin, Josh Duggar, Ted Haggard, Kim Davis, Eddie Long and a host of heterosexual sinners too long to list here are all certain that Jesus has forgiven them. They’ll even tell you so.

  • CarrotCakeMan

    Good news! The Virginia governor has vetoed similar legislation there.

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