ATLANTA, Ga. — Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has announced he plans to veto a controversial HB757, known as the "religious freedom" bill, saying "We do not need to discriminate against anyone in order to protect the faith-based community in Georgia."
The measure passed by the state's Republican-controlled legislature, would give faith-based organizations in Georgia the option to deny services to gay people.
"I believe it is a matter of character for our state," Deal said in announcing his veto. "Our people every day work side by side without regard to the color of the skin of their fellow mate, or the religion their co-worker might adhere to. They are simply trying to make life better for themselves and their communities. That is the character of Georgia. I am going to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason, I will veto House Bill 757."
Deal added, "We do not need to discriminate against anyone in order to protect the faith-based community."
Deal also said the bill "can lead to discrimination even though it may be totally unintentional."
Proponents say the bill, dubbed the free exercise protection act, would protect religious freedoms.
Opponents like the human rights campaign say it is "anti-LGBT" and "appalling."
Depend on NewsChannel 9 to bring you updates on this developing story as we get them.
Speaker Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) issued the following statement regarding Governor Deal's veto of HB 757:
"I respect Governor Deal and the thoughtful consideration he brought to this discussion. I know his choice to veto this measure was not easy.
"HB 757, the Free Exercise Protection Act, was a good faith compromise measure which was the result of a lot of hard work and debate involving many interested parties of every perspective. I want to thank all who participated in this process, particularly Rep. Kevin Tanner.
"I have shared many of the same concerns expressed by Governor Deal. That is why I have insisted throughout this entire debate that any measure we passed must not only protect the free exercise of religion and faith-based organizations, but also had to include clear anti-discriminatory language. I believed, and still do, that HB 757 met the test we shared.
"It is regrettable that the merits of this measure have been ignored in the days since its passage by critics who had not taken the time to read the bill or understand the legal issues involved.
"I take pride in the leadership role the House played in making Georgia the number one statein which to do business. We all aspire to a Georgia which is welcoming, hospitable and growing. At the same time, we have a duty to the Georgians we serve -- the Georgians who live, work, play and worship here -- to listen to their concerns."
Rabbi Joshua Heller, Congregation B'nai Torah:
"As a Rabbi, I'm relieved and grateful that religion will not be used to excuse or legalize discrimination in our state, thanks to Governor Deal's decision to veto HB 757. I am one of many Georgians who feel that our faith demands that we treat others fairly and kindly, as we would wish to be treated ourselves."
Rev. James E. Lamkin, Northside Drive Baptist Church:
"I am grateful to Governor Deal for his courageous leadership in vetoing HB 757. Religious Freedom doesn't mean freedom to discriminate in the name of religion. As Georgians, we affirm that robust religious freedom is already woven into the fabric of our community; and it is done so by the threads of responsibility, fairness, and equality."
Rev. William Flippin Jr., Emmanuel Lutheran Church:
"I applaud Governor Deal for his decision to veto a bill that sanctioned discrimination in the name of religion. My faith teaches that we are to treat others fairly, as we would wish to be treated ourselves. By vetoing this bill, the governor has sent a clear message that inclusion is a value that Georgia must embrace. The next step to protect all Georgians from discrimination is to pass comprehensive civil rights protections into law."