ATLANTA — On Monday morning in a televised statement (comments begin at 12:05 mark) Governor Nathan Deal announced his decision to veto House Bill 757 – the “Free Exercise Protection Act.” He did not remain at his podium after his announcement, because he knew there would be considerable pushback from his statement.
Subsequent to his announcement, Deal vetoed the bill that had for three years presented him perhaps the most monumental challenge of his tenure as governor.
However, the bill simply stated that the government cannot intrude on the religious rights of an organization or an individual unless it has a compelling interest to do so.
The governor, who signed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) in 1993, has made a decision that has undoubtedly disappointed the vast majority of those who twice voted for him and who are responsible for putting him at the helm of the state government.
As a result of his promised veto Deal has decided to go against not only those who put him in office, but the votes of both the House and Senate. However, there is speculation on the part of some that the whole issue was rigged from the beginning – that some of the legislators, who are campaigning for another term in office, were promised that if they voted “yes” to HB 757 to endear themselves to their constituents, the governor would veto the bill to protect them, because he doesn’t have to face re-election.
His announcement was a devastating blow to the faith community and millions of Georgians. While special interest groups described the bill as “discriminatory” and big corporations threatened to move out of the state or choose other states for their business enterprises, the governor decided to discriminate against the faith community.
To most conservatives the “religious liberty” legislation has been the most important bill to be considered by state government officials in years. In fact, the governor may find it difficult to get support for other issues, which he deems important, because of his disappointing veto of this measure.
AJC.com reports, “Already, several conservative lawmakers have vowed to call for a ‘veto session’ to rebuke the governor (for) reject(ing) the measure. It takes a three-fifth majority in both chambers to call a special session, and a two-thirds majority in both chambers to override a veto – a threshold the bill failed to reach by one vote in the Senate and 16 in the house.”