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All Revved Up: Moral Or Monetary? Georgia Governor Vetoes Anti-Gay Bill

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a press conference Monday in Atlanta to announce his rejection of a controversial "religious liberty" bill. He said: "I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith-based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state." Credit: David Goldman
David Goldman/AP

No matter where you find yourself, money talks. Even in the face of unmoving religious conviction, which, it turns out, can be moved. Monday morning, Georgia governor Nathan Deal vetoed a so-called “Religious Liberty” bill, after major studios, business leaders and sports leagues threatened to boycott business in Georgia.

The bill, which recently passed in North Carolina, would prohibit “any adverse action” against people with "a sincerely held religious belief regarding lawful marriage between ... a man and a woman.” Deal, a Republican, went against members of his own party by vetoing the bill, which would have allowed people and businesses to deny service to gay or transgender individuals, based on religious belief. Previously, Deal had said positive things about the bill, stopping just short of his full approval.

In an escalating, public reaction to the bill, the NFL threatened to withhold a Super Bowl, and major studios looked into evacuating "Hollywood South."

In remarks on Monday, Deal acknowledged these threats. "Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character," he said. "Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats."

His reasoning for the veto, he argued, was that discrimination did not align with the “character” of the state. “Our people, every day, work side by side, without regard to the color of their skin of their fellow mate, they are simply trying to make life better for themselves, their families, and their communities,” he said. “That is the character of Georgia. I intend to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason, I will veto House Bill 757.”

Was it a crisis of conscience, or did corporate America step in and take on the role of responsible citizen? A Hollywood threat and a Super Bowl boycott, or just a change of tune? Reverends Irene Monroe and Emmett G. Price III joined Jim and Margery on Boston Public Radio to discuss. “The fact that all of these corporations came together is just phenomenal,” Price said. “These are competitors in this space, and they all agreed to put force and to suggest that there would not be a Super Bowl in Georgia, that there would not be the Final Four, that there wouldn’t be movies filmed in Georgia—that’s absolutely huge.”

Monroe likened the veto to the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina Capitol last summer. “The real reason why the confederate flag went down was of course that massacre— but also because of that happening, BMW and a lot of other big industry was going to leave,” she said. “That trumps the conservative vote, so that’s very interesting, because people say, oh, I’m so moved by my religious conviction, and you can see how easily it can be tampered by a little bit of money.”


To hear All Revved Up, click the audio link above. Rev. Emmett G. Price III is a professor of music at Northeastern University, and the author of The Black Church and Hip Hop Culture. Rev. Irene Monroe is a syndicated religion columnist who writes for Huffington Post and Bay Windows.

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