Last Week in Review: March 28 – April 1

Vetoed Bills

Georgia’s HB 757 is officially dead. On March 28, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed HB 757, a bill that would have sanctioned discrimination in the name of “religious liberty.” In announcing the veto, Governor Deal explained, "I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith based community in Georgia.” Americans United praised the Governor’s decision.  On March 31, leadership in the Georgia Legislature said they would not challenge this veto.

On March 30, Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe vetoed SB 41, a bill that would have also sanctioned discrimination in the Commonwealth. Governor McAuliffe explained exactly what SB 41, Georgia’s HB 757, and similar bills in other states try to do: “Although couched as a ‘religious freedom’ bill, this legislation is nothing more than an attempt to stigmatize.” At this point, there does not appear to be enough votes in the general assembly to override this veto.

Bills That Moved

It remains unclear if Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant will veto HB 1523, one of the broadest and worst “religious freedom” bills this session, which he’s expected to get from the legislature early this week. The House passed the bill in February.  The state Senate passed the bill with an amendment on March 30 after little more than two hours of debate. The Senate took a second vote on March 31 sending the bill back to the House for final approval. After the House took a vote to adopt the bill, Mississippi Democrats sought a procedural vote, as an attempt to delay the bill from reaching the Governor’s desk. The House could take this procedural vote as early as today, which would then send it to the Governor’s desk.

The sponsor of Nebraska LB 975, a bill that would have allowed adoption and foster care agencies in the state, including taxpayer-funded agencies, to refuse to work with families, youth in care, or prospective parents based on the agency’s sincerely held religious beliefs—even where those actions operate contrary to the best interests of the children, decided to withdraw his bill from consideration on April 1. The bill is effectively dead for the session.

Bills to Watch This Week

SJR 39, a proposed constitutional amendment that would enshrine discrimination in the Missouri Constitution by allowing businesses and taxpayer-funded organizations to ignore any law that conflicts with their “sincere religious belief concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex,” passed the Senate after a 39-hour filibuster. In the House, it has been assigned to the House Emerging Issues Committee, which could consider the proposed amendment later this week.

At the same time, opposition to the measured is increasing. Last week, civil rights groups gathered at the Missouri Capitol to rally against SJR 39.

And over the weekend, the St. Louis Times-Dispatch editorialized against the measure.