The following is a complete transcript of Gov. Nathan Deal’s remarks regarding HB 757, delivered at a news conference on March 28, 2016.
The decision surrounding HB 757 has generated more intense feelings that most legislation, perhaps because it has highlighted the concerns of many in our religious communities regarding the actions of federal courts, especially the United States Supreme Court in its 5-4 opinion last summer which legalized same-sex marriage. (Obergefell v. Hodges, 576 U.S.(2015)).
HB 757 enumerates certain actions that religious leaders, faith-based organizations and people of faith shall not be required to take or perform. These include solemnizing a marriage, attending such marriages, hiring church personnel or renting church property when such acts would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs. While most people would agree that government should not force such actions, there has not been a single instance of such taking place in Georgia. If there has been any case of this type in our state it has not been called to my attention. The examples being cited by the proponents of this bill have occurred in other states that have very different laws than Georgia.
One example that is used is the photographer in New Mexico who refused to photograph a same-sex marriage (Elane Photography, LLC v. Willock, 309 P. 3d53 (2013)). That state has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but it was not applicable. It was the New Mexico Human Rights Act that determined the results in that case. Georgia does not have a Human Rights Act.
The second case that is cited is that of the bakery in Colorado that refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple. There the court ruling was based on Colorado’s Public Accommodation Act which prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation (Craig v. Masterpiece Cakeshop, Inc. P 3d_(2015)). Georgia does not have a Public Accommodation Act.
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. It is also apparent that the cases being cited from other states occurred because those state had passed statutes that specifically protected their citizens from adverse actions based on their sexual orientation. Georgia has no such statutes.
HB 757 appeared in several forms during the recent session of the Georgia General Assembly. I had no objection to the “Pastor Protection Act” that was passed by the House of Representatives. The other versions of the bill, however, contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination. I did have problems with that and made my concerns known as did many other individuals and organizations, including some within the faith-based community.
I appreciate the efforts of the General Assembly to address these concerns and my actions today in no way disparage their motivations on those who support this bill, Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it will allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate on something that is best left to the broad protections of the First Amendment to the United State Constitution. That may be why our Founding Fathers did not attempt to list in detail the circumstances that religious liberty embraced. Instead, they adopted what the late Supreme Court Justice Scalia referred to as “negative protection.” That is, rather than telling the government what it can do regarding religion, they told the government what it could not do, namely, “establish a religion or interfere with the free exercise thereof.” They had previously proclaimed in the Declaration of Independence that Man’s Creator had endowed all men “with certain unalienable rights,” including “Liberty” which embraces religious liberty. They made it clear that those liberties were given by God and not by man’s government. Therefore, it was unnecessary to enumerate in statute or constitution what those liberties included.
In light of our history, I find it ironic that today some in the religious community feel it necessary to ask the government to confer upon them certain rights and protections. If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the “hands-off” admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statutes can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional. That is too great a risk to take.
Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character. Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats. The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will make sound judgments based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion. That is what I intend to do.
As I’ve said before, I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives. Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our State and the character of its people. Georgia is a welcoming state filled with warm, friendly and loving people. Our cities and countryside are populated with people who worship God in a myriad of ways and in very diverse settings. Our people work side-by-side without regard to the color of our skin, or the religion we adhere to. We are working to make life better for our families and our communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way.
For that reason, I will veto HB 757.
Please celebrate Governor Nathan Deal’s veto of Georgia’s anti LGBT House Bill 757 at Evening for Equality! On Saturday, June 18th Georgia Equality (GE) will celebrate over 20 years of working to make the vision of equality for all Georgians a reality.
Now in it’s 12th year, Evening for Equality is GE’s largest fundraiser of the year! The event brings together over 400 LGBT people and their allies to raise funds for programs and advocacy.
Evening for Equality SOLD OUT LAST YEAR, so get your tickets today!
Host Committee (Couple): $350
Host Committee (Individual): $200
General Admission: $100
For more information please visit: bit.ly/evening4equality
Janet Mock supports #SpiritDay and LGBTQ Youth!
October 15th is #SpiritDay!
Millions wear purple on Spirit Day to take a stand against bullying and to show their support for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and queer (LGBTQ) youth.
Athens, GA has been hosting Spirit Day celebrations since 2012. This year, the Common Ground LGBT Community Center will serve as the host and bring the LGBTQ & Straight Ally community together to celebrate LGBTQ Youth, national Marriage Equality & Georgia Equality victories.
Georgia Equality, the state’s largest LGBT organization, has been very instrumental in the efforts around Georgia to create safe schools and raise awareness about bullying.
Please wear purple to this event and bring a donation in any amount for Georgia Equality.
If you are not able to attend, please donate online at bit.ly/RSGeorgiaEquality
Please see the flyer for more details!
If you are on facebook, please RSVP for the Meet & Greet here: www.facebook.com/events/1214898888527188/
Thank you to Courtyard Marriott and Depalma’s for donating the food and the space for this event!
For more information about Spirit Day, please visit: http://www.glaad.org/spiritday
For more information about Georgia Equality, please visit: http://georgiaequality.org
If you have questions about the Spirit Day Meet & Greet, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
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Community Empowerment Fund of Athens
Athens, GA is home to a large number of workers who are among the working poor. They work every day but cannot break the cycle of poverty because they do not earn a living wage.
Ms. Ricky Roberts, founder of Under the Rainbow, created the Community Empowerment Fund of Athens (CEFA) to assist low wage and recently separated workers in their time of need. CEFA is supported by the Economic Justice Coalition and Georgia Client Council.
To receive funds, recipients must attend an economic empowerment workshop facilitated by a social services case manager or Georgia Client Council. The application can be emailed to you by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org. Applications can also be picked up at the EJC Office: 1865 W. Broad St, Suite C, Athens, GA 30606. Please call first to make sure someone is available to assist you at the office, 706-549-1142. If you have questions, please contact Ricky Roberts at email@example.com or 706.583.0404.
The Economic Justice Coalition (EJC) will manage all CEFA donations. To make a donation to CEFA, please make checks payable to the Economic Justice Coalition, put CEFA in the memo and mail to CEFA P.O.BOX 843 Athens, GA 30603.