Gov. Deal: Focus on future, not anti-LGBT bill

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Gov. Nathan Deal's agenda for the new legislative session doesn't include a return to controversial anti-LGBT “religious freedom” legislation.

In speeches delivered to business leaders on Tuesday and Georgia lawmakers a day later, Deal didn't mention the legislation or the divisive fight last year that led him to veto the “religious freedom” bill. And when asked about the issue on Wednesday, Deal made it clear he's not interested in revisiting it in the legislative session that opened on Monday.

“I talked about my agenda today and my vision for the future. And I think that's where we should all focus,” Deal said.

The statement from Deal came after the governor “accentuated the positive” in his State of the State address and proposed a $25 billion state budget.

“As we enter this new year of 2017 and this session of the Georgia General Assembly, I invite you to join with me as we continue to follow Johnny Mercer’s advice from 72 years ago and accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, latch on to the affirmative and not waste time and resources messing with Mr. In-Between,” Deal said.

Deal didn't mention “religious freedom” legislation in the speech or on Tuesday during remarks during the Georgia Chamber's annual Eggs & Issues breakfast.

When Deal vetoed the bill in March, he said it didn't fit with the state's “welcoming, loving” approach to people. 

“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, which I and my family have been a member of for all of our lives,” Deal said at the time.

Deal was the third top elected official in Georgia to pour cold water on “religious freedom” legislation in recent days. House Speaker David Ralston said it's a time suck he's not interested in and Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle said fears spurring the legislation “have subsided some.”

On Monday, Ralston also reached out to LGBT Georgians during a speech after he was re-elected speaker.

But state Sen. Josh McKoon wasn't impressed. He has backed “religious freedom” legislation for three years and re-launched his bid for the legislation on Tuesday. 

“It is certainly my hope that this will be the year that we will pass basic, fundamental protections of the right of free exercise here in Georgia as 31 other states have seen fit to do and as has been done at the federal level for now for 24 years,” McKoon said. 

Regina Willis contributed to this report.


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