Georgia’s legislature approved a bill, called HB 757, which allows faith-based organizations to deny services and make employment decisions based on a “sincerely held religious belief,” according to The Washington Post. The bill has measures to protect religious leaders from being required to perform same-sex marriages and individuals from being forced to go to these events. It would also protect faith-based organizations from having to allow the use of their facilities for events that they find “objectionable.” The bill’s next step is going to Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, who will have to decide whether to pass it or veto it.
In theory, a law that protects religious liberty sounds good, but opponents believe that this law would allow for discrimination. Opponents are worried that the definition of the groups that can claim this religious exemption is too broad and will allow widespread discrimination by businesses in Georgia.
The Human Rights Campaign, one of the most well-known gay rights groups, joined the chorus of opposition to HB 757 Saturday, The Washington Post reported. It noted Hollywood’s influence in Georgia’s economy, with Georgia being the third-largest state for film production, just behind New York and California. Chad Griffin, HRC’s president, said that film studios, directors and producers should not schedule any more productions in Georgia if Deal signs the bill.
Griffin’s calls came after the NFL, NCAA, Delta Air Lines, Google, Coca-Cola and Apple, among others, issued statements urging Deal to not sign the bill, The Washington Post reported. The NFL’s statement was particularly noteworthy because it reiterated the organization’s commitment to tolerance and inclusiveness. The statement also said that it would evaluate potential Super Bowl host states based on the law. This threat — that Georgia may lose a Super Bowl bid because of HB 757 — showed that the NFL was taking a strong stance against the bill.
Even individual football teams issued statements. Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank said the bill threatens his inclusive principles and would have negative impacts. Additionally, the tech industry, an increasingly important voice in social advocacy, issues some of the toughest statements agains HB 757, with Apple and Salesforce calling directly for Deal to veto the bill.
Proponents of the bill say that they simply want to practice their faith unhindered, which is, of course, a laudable goal. However, it becomes difficult to endorse bills like HB 757 when they enable discrimination. Indiana signed a similar bill last year and faced much of the outlash that Georgia is facing right now. Indiana quickly amended the law to explicitly disallow discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Many of those who spoke out against the law in Indiana approved of these changes, and the issue seems to have faded into the background. Perhaps a similar amendment to Georgia’s law is in order — a compromise of sorts that will ensure that everyone can practice their religion freely but will also protect those that are at risk of being discriminated against.