Governor Nathan Deal responded to corporate threats to pull out of Georgia by vetoing a far-reaching bill that would have made discrimination against gays legal.


The bill would have given legal protection to anyone who refused service to a gay couple, and government officials who refused to issue marriage licenses would have been protected. The theory of the bill was that it was intended to protect the religious liberty of people who do not approve of gay marriage or of gays in general. Public services could be withheld, based on religious convictions.


Companies such as Disney, Salesforce, and athletic organizations had threatened to withdraw their businesses from Georgia to protect their gay employees. If Apple had any business in Georgia, it would surely have left too, since its CEO Tim Cook is gay. There were even concerns that the Super Bowl might be shifted away from Atlanta. Corporations don’t join these protests because they have gay executives, but because they want to be able to hire the talent they need.


There is the additional problem that if states can pass laws saying that people can refuse to serve customers or clients based on their religious principles, then some might choose to discriminate against Catholics, against Jews, against Muslims, or against any group that offends them. Such laws cannot stand and are best not passed, or if passed, quickly vetoed. They will not be upheld by federal courts in any event.