Gov. Nathan Deal went from lukewarm to cold on a new "religious freedom" bill proposed in the Georgia Senate on Wednesday, blasting the measure as not "beneficial to the state."
“I didn’t want there to be any confusion about where I stand on the RFRA bill: I have no desire or appetite to entertain that legislation,” Deal said.
In case that wasn't clear, Deal offered more.
“Our state is doing exceptionally well and we’ve seen rather disastrous consequences from other states who have made a departure on that issue,” he said. “I see no reason or justification for us to do anything further.”
The governor then hammered the last nail in the legislative coffin.
“This is not something that is part of my agenda,” he said, “and it’s something I do not view as being beneficial to the state.”
Deal's comments to the AJC on Thursday came a day after Sen. Marty Harbin made a plea for Senate Bill 233 from the Senate floor. The legislation would take language from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act – which Deal voted for when it passed the U.S. House in 1993 – and insert it into Georgia law. Harbin and other supporters pointed to Deal's support of the measure more than 20 years ago as a sign he should back the bill now.
But opponents argued on Wednesday that federal law offers some protections to LGBT people – unlike Georgia, which does not have an LGBT-inclusive civil rights law. Without that, a state-level "religious freedom" bill would be "weaponized" to attack LGBT people, Sen. Elena Parent said.
The bill was assigned to the Senate Rules Committee.
Last year, Deal vetoed a much broader anti-LGBT bill that included a state-level "religious freedom" measure.