Georgia lawmakers on Wednesday approved
a bill that critics say would allow businesses to discriminate
against the LGBT community, sending it to Governor Nathan Deal for
his signature or veto.
Legislative leaders scheduled a
surprise vote for House Bill 757, which cleared the House with a
104-65 vote, followed by a 37-18 vote in the Senate.
Changes in the Senate and House
broadened the scope of the bill from protecting clergy from being
forced to marry gay and lesbian couples to allowing religiously
affiliated organizations to refuse services to gay couples.
The final bill adopted Wednesday
replaced direct references to same-sex marriages with allowing
religious groups to deny services “that violate such faith-based
organization's sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human
Rights Campaign (HRC), said that the changes “make an egregious and
discriminatory bill even worse” and called on Governor Deal, a
Republican, to veto the proposal.
“It's appalling that anti-equality
extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the
people of Georgia, and to empower businesses with the explicit right
to discriminate and deny services to LGBT Americans,” he said.
Last week, Deal
broke his silence on the bill and called for a compromise that
would protect religious beliefs without discriminating.
“We do not have a belief in my way of
looking at religion that says we have to discriminate against
anybody,” Deal said.
A coalition of hundreds of companies
have spoken out against the measure, including Salesforce, whose
president, Marc Benioff, has suggested that he may pull a digital
marketing conference out of Georgia over the bill.
Benioff suggests moving conference out of Georgia over anti-gay