Governor Nathan Deal’s speech yesterday morning wherein he announced his intention to veto HB 757, the controversial ‘Religious Liberty’ bill, inspired a wave of response from both local and national observers.

Those who opposed the bill were quick to voice their support for Deal.  Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau president William Pate, concerned over the threat of dozens of conventions moving their events to other cities, was among the first to speak up, saying that, “His (Deal’s) decision will sustain Georgia’s position as the No. 1 state in which to do business and will benefit all Georgians for years to come.”  Many others took to twitter to thank the Governor for his decision.

On the other side of the coin, supporters of HB 757 criticized the decision, and made it clear that the issue would be re-visited in 2017.

Said State Senator Josh McKoon, perhaps the most visible and vocal of supporters of the bill, “The question we have to resolve is whether or not government is going to be used to punish people with a particular point of view. I see that in my state. I fully expect we’ll be back next year debating this again.”

Speaker of the House David Ralston had this to say;

“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.”

The issue may be tabled for 2016, but expect the fallout from it to impact the upcoming races this year and beyond.

As the Republican party does some soul searching on the national stage, so will it be here in Georgia, as the Religious Right and pro-business arms of the party continue to face off.

For now, the eyes of the nation turn to North Carolina, where Governor Pat McCrory is being sued over a bill passed in the state that blocks transgendered individuals from using bathrooms not corresponding to their sex at birth, and (more importantly) stops cities from passing anti-discrimination ordinances protecting LGBT individuals.  The issue of religious freedom is far from over in Georgia, but for now at least it is our neighbors to the north who will be feeling the heat.


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