It’s in the governor’s hands now. Wednesday’s surprise unveiling of a revised House Bill 757 passed in the House and Senate and was met with an even more furious backlash from the business community, the LGBT community and others than the previous version.
The bill, a copy of which you can view here, would protect faith-based organizations (including churches, religious schools or associations) from having to rent or allow its facility to be used for events it finds “objectionable.” Also these faith-based organizations would not be required to provide social, educational or charitable services “that violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.” And they would not be forced to hire or retain employees whose “religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
Also, the revised bill includes much of the language of the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993, which requires government to prove a “compelling governmental interest” before it interferes with a person’s exercise of religion. There’s a provision added that says it cannot be used to allow “discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law” but there are no federal or state laws that expressly protect Georgia’s LGBT community against discrimination.
Now it’s up to Gov. Nathan Deal to either sign it into law or veto it. If you’re wondering how long he has to decide, well, you might want to get comfortable. The AJC reports that since lawmakers decided not to use a parliamentary procedure to immediately transfer the measure to his desk, Deal has until May 3 to decide.
But when will he decide? Deal’s spokesperson told the New York Times on Wednesday, “The governor has been clear as to his position on this issue and will assess the legislation during bill review in April.” In other words, the staffers fielding calls in the governor’s office better order up a few cases of throat lozenges.