In his first interview since vetoing Georgia's HB 757 in March, Governor Nathan Deal said he does not regret his decision, and that the uproar over recent bills in North Carolina and Mississippi should give legislators seeking to pass "religious liberty" bills second thoughts. Had it been signed, HB 757, the Georgia “religious liberty” bill, would have permitted discrimination like the bills in these other states.
"I see what’s happening in North Carolina. I see what’s happening in Mississippi," he said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "And I would hope that many of the ones that are pushing for it would not want the state of Georgia to go through that kind of scenario."
The Mississippi bill that the governor referred to is HB 1523. It allows a range of individuals, corporations, healthcare providers, and nonprofit organizations—including those that receive taxpayer funding to perform social services—to refuse to provide goods and services to same sex couples, single mothers, divorcees, and anyone who has had sex outside of marriage. Governor Phil Bryant signed the bill into law on April 5, igniting a firestorm of travel bans and boycotts.
North Carolina's HB 2, while not framed as a religious freedom bill by its sponsors, similarly sanctions discrimination against the LGBT community and has also stirred up opposition, criticism, and boycotts.
Although some Georgia legislators have said they plan to introduce a similar "religious liberty" bill next session, Governor Deal says legislators should “take very deep breath” first.
“I don’t want to go through the same process all over again," he said. "I’ve made my position very clear. I tried to write a very thoughtful veto message. It expressed my concerns and it expressed my reasons for vetoing it. And those reasons won’t change in my mind.”