Georgia’s governor, Nathan Deal, has vetoed a controversial anti-gay bill that saw entertainment giants Disney and Viacom threaten to take their billion-dollar businesses elsewhere.
On Monday, Deal announced that the proposed bill, entitled the Free Exercise Protection Act, would not be signed into law. If passed the bill would have allowed religious groups to opt-out of providing goods and services to LGBT citizens.
“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia,” Deal said yesterday. “Georgia is a welcoming state,” adding that the bill “doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people.”
Deal’s veto came weeks in advance of a May 3 deadline in response to widespread criticism of the bill and threats from companies such as Disney and Viacom and even the NFL to move their operations out of the state, which currently provides generous tax breaks for the entertainment industry.
Disney, one of the companies who announced their intention to boycott the state if the bill was enacted, applauded Deal’s decision.
“We applaud Governor Deal for making the right decision on this piece of legislation and look forward to continuing our film production in Georgia,” a Disney spokesperson said.
Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin also welcomed the news. “Today, Governor Deal heard the voices of Georgians, civil rights organisations, as well as the many leaders in the entertainment industry and private sector who condemned this attack on the fundamental rights of LGBT people, and he has set an example for other elected officials to follow,” Griffin said in a statement.
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