Delta chief smacks down Georgia’s anti-gay bill

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The incoming chief of Atlanta-based Delta Air Lines wants Georgia lawmakers to reject an anti-gay bill that's causing a national backlash, criticizing the legislation as an “unacceptable.”

The company's forceful statement about House Bill 757 came on the heels of Gov. Nathan Deal disavowing the legislation on Thursday and making a biblical case against it. Ed Bastian (photo), Delta's incoming CEO, then praised Deal and blasted the bill.

“Delta applauds Governor Deal for his leadership and clear message that discrimination of any kind is unacceptable,” Ed said.  “With a diverse workforce that includes more than 30,000 employees across Georgia, we fully support Governor Deal rejecting a bill, including Bill 757, that would do anything other than uphold equality and ensure Georgia remains a welcoming state for everyone.”

Delta is among more than 450 companies that make up Georgia Prospers, a coalition of business and education leaders launched to combat “religious freedom” bills and promote workplace fairness and equality. Members sign a pledge that they welcome “all people, no matter one's race, sex, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Delta joins a growing list of international companies that have criticize House Bill 757, which would allow faith-based organizations to discriminate against LGBT people and others based on religious beliefs. Delta has opposed “religious freedom” legislation in the past, but at considerable cost to the company.

In 2014, then CEO Richard Anderson came out against a “religious freedom” bill from Sen. Josh McKoon. A year later, conservative lawmakers retaliated by killing a lucrative fuel tax break that saves Delta about $23 million a year. 

The statement from Delta comes as Deal and House Speak David Ralston work to craft a way out from under the “religious freedom” bill. Since its Senate passage on Feb. 19, the measure has sparked a national backlash that continues to grow. 

The current House Bill 757 took the largely innocuous Pastor Protection Act championed by Ralston and tacked on the anti-gay provisions of Sen. Greg Kirk's First Amendment Defense Act. The Senate's 38-14 approval of the hybrid bill returned it to the House for consideration.

The bill, despite the efforts of supporters to gloss over its provisions, would allow faith-based agencies and others to discriminate against LGBT people based on religious beliefs. Critics say it opens the door to discrimination and threatens LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies in place in companies and cities across the state.

On Wednesday, LGBT groups delivered more than 75,000 emails opposing the legislation to Deal's office in the State Capitol.

[h/t AJC Political Insider]

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