Arizona governor vetoes ‘religious freedom’ bill, similar measures stall in Georgia

Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial “religious protection” bill Wednesday that could have allowed legal discrimination against gays.

Similar legislation has been introduced in the Georgia General Assembly, but it appeared to stall short of passage this week and may be dead for this session.

The bills, which purport to protect a person’s freedom to practice their particular religion, have been introduced in several states in recent months by conservative lawmakers as a reaction to the overturning of gay marriage bans by court decisions.

In both Arizona and Georgia, business organizations and major corporations opposed the “religious freedom” bills and cautioned that they would harm the states’ business climates if allowed to go into law.

In announcing her veto of the Arizona bill, Brewer, a Republican, said the measure “does not address a specific or present concern related to religious liberty in Arizona.”

“I sincerely believe that (the bill) has the potential to create more problems than it purports to solve,” Brewer said. “It could divide Arizona in ways that no one could imagine.”

Brewer’s veto, which also had been urged by Arizona’s Republican senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, may help knock down similar efforts in other states like Georgia.

In the Georgia Legislature, conservative Republicans were pushing for adoption of the local versions of these “preservation of religious freedom” bills, HB 1023 and SB 377.

Sen. Josh McKoon (R-Columbus), the sponsor of SB 377, gave an impassioned speech in the Senate Wednesday in which he said the bill’s purpose was to protect an individual’s religious rights and not to punish any group of people.

“I felt that instead of continuing to deal with these issues in piecemeal, how about providing a defense to people of every faith who face a government that routinely is hostile toward fundamental religious liberty interests,” McKoon said.

Both measures, however, appear to have been sidelined prior to “crossover day” on Monday, which is the deadline for bills to have been adopted by at least one chamber of the General Assembly.

SB 377 was not placed on the Senate’s Monday calendar by the Rules Committee. HB 1023 never even made it to the House Rules Committee.

The Georgia Legislature continues to be one of those places where, as the old saying goes, “it ain’t over ‘til the fat lady sings.”

Under legislative rules, it is possible that the language of the “religious freedom” bills could be attached to other measures and receive a floor vote in the final days of the session, which is scheduled to adjourn on March 20.

© 2014 by The Georgia Report


Tags: anti-gay discrimination , Jan Brewer , Josh McKoon , religious freedom