The Republican governor of the US state of Georgia said on Monday he would veto a “religious freedoms” bill that sparked a protest movement amid accusations it would infringe upon gay rights.
Major American corporations such as Disney joined a push to get Governor Nathan Deal to block the measure, which was approved by lawmakers and was awaiting his signature.
The bill, described as a measure to “protect religious freedoms,” would have made it legal for pastors to refuse to perform gay marriages and allowed churches and faith-based organizations, on the basis of their religious beliefs, to decline to hire or provide services to gays.
“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,” Deal told a news conference.
Several large companies had called on the governor not to sign the bill into law, with Disney threatening to take its business elsewhere if no action was taken against it.
Celebrities including Anne Hathaway and Julianne Moore also weighed in, urging the governor to veto the measure.
“Our actions on (the bill) are not just about protecting the faith-based community or providing a business-friendly climate for job growth in Georgia,” Deal said.
“This is about the character of our state and the character of its people.”
A similar protest movement was launched against a measure in North Carolina deemed discriminatory against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.
That bill, which among other things stipulates which bathrooms transgender students must use, was signed into law by Governor Pat McCrory, also a Republican, on Wednesday.