The list of critics condemning Gov. Nathan Deal for vetoing an anti-gay “religious freedom” bill continues to grow. First Georgia Baptists. Then Ted Cruz. And now Franklin Graham.
“By vetoing the Free Exercise Protection Act this morning [March 28], he warmly welcomed the LGBT community and in effect told people of faith that they take second place,” Graham wrote on his verified Facebook page. “House Bill 757 would have protected pastors from having to perform same-sex marriages and would have protected churches from being forced to use their facilities for ceremonies against their religious beliefs. This conservative governor has caved in to pressure from the NFL and major corporations and is now a part of backing the LGBT agenda. This is a dark hour in Nathan Deal’s long political career.”
“LGBT forces and corporate super powers are using this threat to try to stop the bill that would protect pastors from performing same-sex marriages and give faith-based organizations permission to deny use of their facilities for things outside their religious beliefs,” he wrote. “It does not legalize discrimination as opponents are trying to say, rather it helps contain the growing discrimination against Christians who simply want to live out their faith. The bill has already passed both houses of the Georgia legislature and has the support of Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle. Governor Nathan Deal is set to make his decision in the next few weeks. Let’s pray that Gov. Deal will protect the religious freedoms of Georgians. Write him and let him know how you feel about this—stand up against this NFL blitz!”
The NFL hinted that Atlanta could lose its bid for an upcoming Super Bowl if Deal signed the bill into law. The pro sports league was joined by businesses across the country and the entertainment industry, which pumps nearly $2 billion a year into the state's economy, in publicly expressing concern over the legislation.
Georgia Baptists mirrored the arguments of Graham during a press conference on Tuesday – the state's economy be damned if pastors and faith-based organizations aren't protected from gay marriage.
Graham likes to bash LGBT people. He did so when he rallied in Atlanta with thousands of supporters across from the State Capitol in February. Lawmakers stopped what they were doing to gawk. Literally. The Senate Rules Committee had scheduled a hearing on one of the anti-gay bills – Sen. Greg Kirk's First Amendment Defense Act – only to delay it for hours so lawmakers could step across the street and kiss Graham's ring.
They had to get in line behind Lt. Casey Cagle.
Not to be outdone by Graham, Sen. Ted Cruz chimed in from the GOP presidential campaign trail to express his disappointment with Deal's veto. Via the AJC:
“I thought that was very disappointing to see Gov. Deal of Georgia side with leftist activists and side against religious liberty,” Cruz said. “It used to be, political parties, we would argue about marginal tax rates and you could have disagreements about what the level of taxation should be. But on religious liberty, on protecting the rights of every American to practice, live according to our faith, live according to our conscience, we all came together. That ought to be a bipartisan commitment and I was disappointed not to see Governor Deal not defend religious liberty.”
It's not surprising that Cruz wanted to see the anti-gay bill passed. Days before Deal's veto, Cruz released a 15-point plan to protect “religious freedom” that of course targets LGBT people, among others. Cruz, after all, stacked his Religious Liberty Advisory Council with some of the county's most noted homophobes. And in Georgia, Cruz's campaign team is stocked with some of the state's most anti-gay lawmakers.
There's Sen. Josh McKoon, who has pushed for “religious freedom” legislation – and fought efforts to add LGBT protections to it – for three years. Cruz's merry band of Georgia bigots also includes Sen. Mike Crane, who has turned Deal's veto in a fundraising pitch for his Congressional campaign while also calling for a special session so lawmakers can overturn it. The list also includes Sen. Marty Harbin, who joined Georgia Baptists on Tuesday in calling for a veto override.
Meanwhile, LGBT Atlanta will send Deal some love on Tuesday with the HB 757 Veto Victory Rally.