Over the last few months, our blog has been closely following the progress of House Bill 757, the contentious legislation designed to grant Georgia business owners the right to refuse to hire or terminate those employees who hold contrary values, and refuse services to those whose lifestyle is not in accord with their sincerely held religious beliefs.
While touted by its sponsors as mechanism to enhance religious freedom for business owners, critics derided it as nothing more than a smokescreen for legalizing discrimination against LGBT people. In recent developments, it now appears as if these latter arguments have won out.
Last Monday, Governor Nathan Deal announced that he would be vetoing HB 757, calling it largely unwarranted.
“I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part … for all of our lives,” said Deal.
The news undoubtedly came as a great relief to the local business community and the many major corporations that had lined up against the measure, including Georgia-based Coca-Cola, Home Depot, and Delta, as well as corporate juggernauts like Disney, Apple, Netflix, Intel and even the National Football League. Indeed, the NFL previously cautioned that the bid for Atlanta to host the Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020 could be comprised by the enactment of HB 757.
While Governor Deal’s actions will help the state avoid a mass business exodus and a lengthy legal battle like the one promising to play out in North Carolina, experts indicate the matter may not be entirely over, as state law does grant the General Assembly the power to override Governor Deal’s veto.
Two things would have to happen in order for this to be achieved. First, 60 percent of both the House and Senate would have to support a special session to consider the matter, and second, both chambers would then have to vote to override the veto by a two-thirds majority.
While experts indicate this is something of a long shot, the threat must nevertheless be acknowledged given the lobbying power of HB 757’s sponsors.
Stay tuned for developments …
If you have concerns about a business law matter of any kind, please consider speaking with a skilled legal professional who can answer your questions, outline your options and pursue the necessary course of action.