Back in 2014, I wrote a post about the Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, the first effort by Rep. Sam Teasley and Sen. Josh McKoon to pass a version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Georgia. In the post, I referred to the objections of a young Republican Christian activist who is also gay:
I spoke to a young Republican activist about the bills. You may have seen him out campaigning for his preferred candidates over the last year. He’s a strong Christian. He’s very much against discrimination, but allows there should be certain religious exemptions for churches, for example in hiring. But he is also strongly for marriage equality, and he is concerned that the Religious Freedom Act will set that back. He supports the GOP, but he feels that by advocating bills like this, his party is pushing him away. You see, in addition to being a Christian Republican, he is also gay.
After Governor Deal announced his intention to veto House Bill 757 on Monday, my source, who still wishes to remain anonymous, reached out to me with his observations about this year’s effort to pass what became the Free Exercise Protection Act. “As a member of the faith and LGBT community,” he told me, “I must say I’m torn on the veto.” He went on:
I think [the debate over religious liberty is] a discussion that needs to continue, but with more rational thinking and intelligent, understanding discussions from leaders on both sides. It’s very hard for me. I agree — I am all for the protection for pastors and churches having another state level protection, even though it’s already a constitutional right, because of the we way our legal system and judges have become so liberal. That being said, I can’t support what could be discriminatory legislation when it comes to those who serve the public. It’s tough…I don’t know how to feel…but I feel hopeful that [Governor Nathan] Deal did the right thing.
Despite the veto of the bill, and barring an unlikely veto override by the legislature, the debate over religious liberty will plau a role in this year’s elections, the 2017 legislative session, and likely the 2018 races for governor and other constitutional officers.