The NFL said a “religious freedom” bill would cost Atlanta the opportunity to host the Super Bowl in 2019.
Under pressure from major corporations and the NFL, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced Monday he will veto House Bill 757, which would have given faith-based organizations in Georgia the option to deny services and jobs to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Supporters said the measure was meant to protect religious freedom, while opponents have described it as “anti-LGBT” and “appalling.”
The proposed Georgia law would have ensured that pastors could not be forced to perform same-sex marriages. It also would have allowed faith-based organizations to fire, to refuse to hire, or to refuse services to someone if doing so violates their faith. It would have prohibited the state government from discriminating against churches and their affiliated ministries because they believe marriage is between a man and a woman.
Governor Deal, a Republican, said his decision was “about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people. … I intend to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason I will veto House Bill 757.”
Mr. Deal’s decision left the bill’s supporters, most of them Republicans, dismayed. “We control all the constitutional offices, we control the legislature, and today, the governor has turned his back on millions and millions of people who have very real concerns about what their religious freedom looks like in the wake of a very fluid legal environment,” said State Senator Josh McKoon, a Republican.
The NFL made it clear that the passage of the bill would have jeopardized the city’s chance to host the Super Bowl. Atlanta hopes to host Super Bowl LIII in 2019 at the new $1.4 billion Mercedes-Benz Stadium, set to open next summer.
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