Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, facing mounting pressure from corporations with interests in his state, said Monday that he will veto a controversial "religious liberties" bill.
As we reported, the measure that state legislators passed earlier this month "allows religious officials and faith-based organizations to deny services when doing so would violate a 'sincerely held religious belief.' Critics say it enshrines discrimination against gays and lesbians."
Deal, who is a Republican, told reporters at a press conference Monday:
"Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people. And that is what we should want. They choose to worship God in the way they see fit in a myriad of ways, in a variety of different settings. I believe that that is our best side. And our people, every day, work side by side without regard to the color of their skin of their fellow mate. Or the religion that their co-worker might adhere to. They are simply trying to make life better for themselves, their families and their communities. That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way."
"For that reason," he added, "I will veto House Bill 757."
Deal also said: "I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives."
You can read Deal's full remarks here.
"The two-term Republican has been besieged by all sides over the controversial measure, and his office has received thousands of emails and hundreds of calls on the debate. The tension was amplified by a steady stream of corporate titans who urged him to veto the bill — and threatened to pull investments from Georgia if it became law.
"The governor's planned veto will likely infuriate religious conservatives who considered the measure, House Bill 757, their top priority. This is the third legislative session they've sought to strengthen legal protections from opponents of gay marriage, but last year's Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex weddings galvanized their efforts."
Disney and its Marvel subsidiary had threatened to boycott the state, and a range of companies including Apple, Dell and Time Warner had urged the governor to veto the legislation.
AMC Networks, which films its hit show The Walking Dead in the state, had also called for a veto.
Georgia has a burgeoning film industry, drawing scores of TV and film shoots yearly due to attractive tax incentives. The Los Angeles Times, citing the Georgia Department of Economic Development, reported that "248 film and television productions shot in the Peach State" in 2015, "representing $1.7 billion in spending."