Government Affairs Georgia governor rejects religious-freedom bill By Danny King / March 28, 2016 Share 1 -- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal said Monday that he will veto a religious-freedom bill that might have allowed business owners to discriminate against LGBT people.House Bill 757 had been passed by Georgia's House and Senate, and was awaiting Deal to sign the bill into a law.The bill would have legally protected religious officials or organizations who refuse to perform LGBT marriage ceremonies on the grounds of religious freedom. It also had a clause that might have allowed discrimination in the marketplace. House Bill 757 says, "Government shall not take any adverse action against a person or faith-based organization wholly or partially on the basis that such person or faith-based organization believes, speaks, or acts in accordance with a sincerely held religious belief regarding lawful marriage between two people, including the belief that marriage should only be between a man and a woman or that sexual relations are properly reserved to such a union."In remarks published on his website, Gov. Deal said, "I had no objection to the 'Pastor Protection Act' that was passed by the House of Representatives. The other versions of the bill, however, contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination. My decision regarding HB 757 is not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia. This is about the character of our state and the character of its people.The Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association, Hilton Worldwide and Marriott International were among hospitality groups that went on record opposing the bill, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. Starwood Hotels & Resorts earlier this month sent an open letter to Deal urging him not to sign HB 757, saying at the time that it was “antithetical to Starwood’s core values of diversity and inclusiveness, and will have significant adverse effects on Starwood’s business in the state of Georgia."In a statement responding to Deal's impending veto, Georgia Hotel & Lodging Association executive director Jim Sprouse said, “The Georgia legislature acted in good faith trying to address constituent concerns. Now, Gov. Deal has stepped forward as a leader for all Georgians — as he has the last six years — deliberate and determined to make and keep Georgia the number one state to do business. Thank you, Gov. Deal, for your leadership.”An initial version of the bill, which applied only to pastors, was unanimously passed on Feb. 11 by the state’s House of Representatives, 161-0. The state’s senate combined that bill with another that might have allowed tax-funded groups to deny services to the LGBT community, and passed that version, 38-14. Georgia legislators continued to tweak the bill, and passed it on March 16, sending it to the governor’s desk for signature.