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Georgia governor to veto anti-gay bill after business outcry
[NEW YORK] Georgia's Republican governor Nathan Deal said he will veto a "religious liberty" bill that triggered a wave of criticism and threats of boycotts from companies including Walt Disney Co.
"I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which my family and I are a part of for all of our lives," Mr Deal said at a news conference Monday.
The legislation would have allowed business owners in Georgia to invoke their religious beliefs to deny employment, education and charitable services - essentially giving legal protection to people who object to same-sex marriage. Disney and the Weinstein Co threatened to stop filming in the state if the bill wasn't vetoed, while 21st Century Fox, AMC Networks Inc, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, Time Warner Inc and Viacom Inc voiced their opposition to it.
Georgia, with attractive tax incentives for businesses, has been one of the winners in the global land grab for filmed entertainment. Movie and TV producers spent a record US$1.7 billion in the state in the fiscal year that ended June 30, generating a US$6 billion impact, the state's Economic Development Department said at its Film Day event in February. The entertainment industry has created 79,000 jobs in the state with an average annual salary of US$84,000, the department said.
The governor said the bill was unnecessary because the First Amendment gives broad protection to religious freedom.
"Our actions on HB 757 are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia," Mr Deal said. "This is about the character of our state and the character of its people."
Beyond the film industry, other large companies including Microsoft Corp and Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co and Delta Air Lines Inc had urged the state to abandon the bill. Salesforce.com said it would cut investment in Georgia, including a tech conference held in Atlanta, if the bill wasn't vetoed.
Mr Deal has until May 3 to sign or veto the bill.