The leaders of the Georgia General Assembly have weighed in in Governor Deal’s promise to veto House Bill 757, the Free Exercise Protection Act. Speaker of the House David Ralston said that in his opinion, the measure passed the non-discrimination test that he was looking for:
I respect Governor Deal and the thoughtful consideration he brought to this discussion. I know his choice to veto this measure was not easy.
HB 757, the Free Exercise Protection Act, was a good faith compromise measure which was the result of a lot of hard work and debate involving many interested parties of every perspective. I want to thank all who participated in this process, particularly Rep. Kevin Tanner.
I have shared many of the same concerns expressed by Governor Deal. That is why I have insisted throughout this entire debate that any measure we passed must not only protect the free exercise of religion and faith-based organizations, but also had to include clear anti-discriminatory language. I believed, and still do, that HB 757 met the test we shared.
It is regrettable that the merits of this measure have been ignored in the days since its passage by critics who had not taken the time to read the bill or understand the legal issues involved.
I take pride in the leadership role the House played in making Georgia the number one state in which to do business. We all aspire to a Georgia which is welcoming, hospitable and growing. At the same time, we have a duty to the Georgians we serve — the Georgians who live, work, play and worship here — to listen to their concerns.
Lt. Governor Casey Cagle stressed the importance of the role of government in protecting the religious freedom of Georgians:
The Georgia General Assembly worked hard to find the right balance on this most challenging of issues. An important and legitimate concern has been largely lost in the hyperbole and criticism surrounding this debate: our state can and should take an active role in protecting the right of individuals to practice their faith without government interference. I’ve always advocated for Georgia’s status as the number one state to do business, but as we move forward I will never lose sight of the importance of an individual’s right to practice their faith. This principle will continue to guide my actions going forward.