National Review: Social Conservatism’s Influence May Be Waning in the Peach State

A post on the National Review website postulates that Governor Nathan Deal’s recent veto of House Bill 757, the Free Exercise Protection Act, shows that the influence of the Christian right is declining in the Peach State.

One week after Deal’s veto, which came on Easter Monday, evangelical leaders, lawmakers, and activists across the state are still livid and threatening to make the governor pay. But for all their bluster, social conservatives may not have the political power they once did, even in a Bible-belt stronghold such as Georgia.

Deal’s veto may turn out to be the moment when long-standing tensions between the business and evangelical wings of the Republican party exploded here, and when the former definitively vanquished the latter. When the legislation landed on Deal’s desk, a bevy of corporate giants such as Disney threatened to pull their business from Georgia should he sign it. Christian leaders, including Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, aggressively lobbied him to stand firm. Yet Deal, who campaigned in 2010 as a champion of traditional values, decided to strike down the legislation. The Religious Right, which for decades kept the cultural shifts roiling other parts of the country out of the South, may not be able to fight off change much longer.

The post goes on to speculate that supporters of the bill will make sure their voices are heard at the Republican State Convention in early June, and that candidates are likely to see more scrutiny about their positions on social issues from groups like the Faith & Freedom Coalition during the primary and general elections this spring and fall. However, that may not be enough. From the post:

But it may be that in present-day Georgia, where two-thirds of voters support anti-discrimination laws to protect gays and lesbians, an aggressive campaign from a group such as the Faith & Freedom Coalition simply doesn’t have the muscle it might once have had. The landscape is a far cry from, say, the 1980s, when politicians lobbied hard for the support of the Christian Coalition and Moral Majority, or even from 2004, when a gay-marriage ban claimed support from 76 percent of voters. And as evangelical forces have become less unified — the present-day faces of the Religious Right, such as Moore, are less focused on organizing voters — the influence of Right-leaning business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce has only grown.

Meanwhile, a Politico story on efforts to alter the national GOP platform by removing or at least toning down language opposing same sex marriage in favor of traditional marriage lists Georgia and Texas as two states that organizers believe could be receptive to such a change. Part of the reasoning is likely related to the fate of HB 757.

Georgia Republican Gov. Nathan Deal last week vetoed a bill that, critics said, would have allowed faith-based groups to deny services to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons, in the process spurning social conservatives who pushed the bill through the state Legislature. The bill faced a firestorm of criticism from corporate interests, including Atlanta Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a generous Republican Party benefactor who donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 campaign.


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