Gov. Nathan Deal, wary of a national backlash over an anti-gay "religious freedom" bill, warned lawmakers on Monday that even the "perception of discrimination" is too much for him.

 

The statement from Deal is his most forceful yet as lawmakers consider the fate of House Bill 757, which started as the largely innocuous Pastor Protection Act from Rep. Kevin Tanner. But it turned into a sweeping anti-gay measure after it was merged with all that is bad from Sen. Greg Kirk's First Amendment Defense Act. The hybrid measure easily passed the Senate on Feb. 19 and awaits action by the House. 

Since the Senate vote, the bill has fueled a national backlash, a burn from businesses that do business in the state and even rumblings that large events that call Atlanta home are unhappy. 

Deal hinted last week that the legislation as currently crafted is being revisited. Since, the chorus of boos from businesses, industry groups and hospitality officials has only grown louder. 

But don't set your expectations too high for Deal. He's the same governor who wanted LGBT protections added to an anti-gay "religious freedom" bill before he waffled and then didn't.