OPINION: Deal Vetoes Controversial ‘Religious Liberty’ Bill, Duh

Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the “religious liberty” bill that triggered criticism from gay rights groups and business leaders.


In a press conference at the Capitol, Deal said House Bill 757 does not reflect Georgia’s welcoming image as a state full of “warm, friendly and loving people.”


“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,” he said. “For that reason, I will veto HB 757.”


This veto has infuriated religious conservatives who were seeking to strengthen legal protections from opponents of gay marriage.


However, many major corporations were threatening to pull out of Georgia if Deal passed the legislation: Disney, Apple, Time Warner, Intel, the NFL, and many others. They joined with gay rights groups who warned that the measure is legal discrimination. Deal ran on a pro-business platform, so it’s no surprise he took those threats into account.


So what exactly was in the legislation that had so many people around the country in uproar? Well in essence it would allow faith-based organizations to deny services to those who violate their “sincerely held religious beliefs” and preserve their right to fire employees who aren’t in accordance with those beliefs.


I’m sorry, but do we even need this legislation? Has anyone who is in uproar about this (on both sides) even read the constitution? Probably not because most people haven’t, but that’s another gripe for another day.


Religious organizations already have protection under the law to oppose gay marriage. If a gay couple walks into a church and asks the priest to marry them and he says, “Sorry in our church a marriage is between a man and a woman,” he has every right to turn them away. If a preacher stands on his pulpit and preaches to his congregation that gay marriage is a sin, he has every right to do so. Read the First Amendment.


Now what about the term faith-based organization? In my understanding, a “faith-based organization” is not a legally defined term, but it is used to describe organizations (religious or charitable) that are affiliated or identified with one or more religious groups.


This doesn’t even apply to businesses. So same gay couple walks into a bakery, asks the baker to bake them a gorgeous 10-tiered cake for their upcoming wedding. This baker refuses based on his deeply held religious beliefs that gays should not be married. Guess what? This big, bad law doesn’t cover the baker. This law was just for religious organizations, not businesses.


There is no federal law protecting LGBT people from discrimination. All states must adhere to the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin. There’s nothing in there about sexual orientation or identity. Some states have enacted these laws, but Georgia is not one of them.


So does that mean this bakery has the right to refuse service to this couple? Currently under the law, it seems like he does.


So why is everyone up in arms about a bill giving churches and faith-based organizations rights it already holds?


Honestly, this bill was simply a knee-jerk reaction by religious conservatives who are opposed to gay marriage and appalled at last year’s Supreme Court decision. They are afraid their rights are going to be taken away by the federal government and want to ensure those rights are not lost.


Unless the federal government decides to take away the First Amendment, I think we’re all good.


On the other side, gay rights activists shouldn’t be pushing their ideas onto religious organizations. So the church doesn’t agree with your choices. OK, find another church. So a baker doesn’t agree with your marriage. Ok, find another baker. Why would you want to fight someone who whole-heartedly disagrees with your lifestyle into baking a cake for you? Why would you go into a church you know does not agree with gay marriage and fight to get married there? Wouldn’t you rather a team of people who support you and love you there on your big day?


In my opinion, this is more of a personal respect issue. When did we become a society that pushes others into agreeing with our views? When did we become a society that ostracizes people who don’t agree with us? When did we become a society that doesn’t respect each other?


Here’s my advice for both sides: stop. Love all. Respect all. You’ll be much, much happier.