This story was written with the AJC's Laura Diaz:
In his first public comments since the contentious new religious liberty bill swept through the Legislature, Gov. Nathan Deal said he was “pleasantly surprised” lawmakers hashed out a compromise but emphasized that he faces a hard decision ahead whether to sign it.
He told our AJC colleague Laura Diaz that he plans on reviewing the measure in April but that he won’t telegraph his intentions. Deal, who earlier warned that he would reject any measure that he believed amounted to legalized discrimination, ducked a question over whether he thought this version crossed that line.
“I have heard from both sides and I’m sure I’ll continue to hear from both sides," he told Diaz. "I will take their opinions into consideration, and I’ll do what I’m required to do: Which is to make the difficult decision on a very difficult subject.”
In a separate interview with WSB’s Lori Geary, he described the proposal as a "monumental piece of legislation" and said he had a "tough" decision ahead.
"That does make it difficult to decide, and that’s made it difficult for the General Assembly members to come to some conclusion as to what a bill would look like," he said. "I don’t diminish their efforts and their sincerity at all, but it is a tough situation. Now it comes down to me, and I’ll use my best judgement in the long term."
He added: "I was pleasantly surprised they were able to pass something, and that some of their opinions were put aside in order to do so. That still doesn’t make it any easier for me to make this judgement call."
When pressed for his take on where he's leaning, he didn't drop a hint.
"What will happen will happen," he said. "I will try to use my best judgement to do what the people of Georgia elected me to do, and that was to make the best decision for the people of this state as a whole."