Gov. Nathan Deal was unequivocal in his opposition to a revived “religious liberty” measure on Thursday, signaling he would veto the measure if it made it to his desk.
“I didn’t want there to be any confusion about where I stand on the RFRA bill: I have no desire or appetite to entertain that legislation,” Deal said.
He was referring to a one-page proposal introduced this week by state Sen. Marty Harbin that brought the debate over the legislation back to the forefront. His measure would require the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 to apply in Georgia.
The governor on Wednesday said the state must take an “extremely cautious” approach to the measure but also said it was “only fair that we give it due consideration.” On Thursday, though, Deal suggested his position had hardened as he criticized Harbin’s proposal in unsparing terms.
“Our state is doing exceptionally well and we’ve seen rather disastrous consequences from other states who have made a departure on that issue,” he said. “I see no reason or justification for us to do anything further.”
Harbin’s measure is significantly scaled down from the eight-page legislation that Deal vetoed last year, in part to make it harder for the governor to oppose. Deal, while a member of Congress in the 1990s, voted for the federal version of the legislation that Harbin’s measure addresses.
On Thursday, Deal referred to his veto message from last year when pressed on whether he would consider signing such legislation. In that veto message, the governor argued that “religious liberty” legislation threatens to undercut Georgia’s pro-business environment and its welcoming image.
He was then asked if he considered the measure dead on arrival.
“This is not something that is part of my agenda,” he said, “and it’s something I do not view as being beneficial to the state.”