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Greg Bluestein

Telecom startup to bolt Georgia after ‘religious liberty’ vote

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Opponents of SB 129 march to the Capitol steps on Tuesday, where they chanted slogans and signed messages to their legislators. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

Opponents of SB 129 march to the Capitol steps on Tuesday, where they chanted slogans and signed messages to their legislators. Bob Andres, bandres@ajc.com

The “religious liberty” legislation and its cousins are still winding its way through the Georgia Legislature, but one company isn’t waiting to see the outcome before pulling up stakes.

The executives of 373k, a telecom startup based in Decatur, decided to move to Nevada immediately after the Georgia Senate approved a measure Friday allowing opponents of same-sex marriage to cite religious beliefs in denying services to gay couples.

Founder Kelvin Williams said in an interview Saturday that he knew the legislation is not yet law – and may be substantially changed or halted – but that he was so disgusted by the legislation that he decided to call the moving vans.

“It makes no sense. It’s absolutely unnecessary. We are a startup and we are trying to get the best talent we can,” said Williams, who is gay. “And I don’t want to be in a state where it is hard to attract the best talent.”

Williams’ company, which started in April, has about 20 employees, including five in Georgia. He’s giving them the option to stay here – but he’s headed out.

“Before I plant my roots any further, we have decided to leave,” he said. “And there’s no reason why I think it won’t pass. There’s just not enough opposition.”

Our AJC colleague Kristina Torres has covered this debate for three years. Here is a snippet of her story Friday on the bill’s passage:

House Bill 757 would enable faith-based organizations and individuals to opt out of serving couples — gay or straight — or following anti-discrimination requirements if they cite a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction regarding marriage.

Religious conservatives have cheered the measure as a compromise that recognizes their faith-based objections to gay marriage. Many in Georgia’s business community, however, have expressed concerns over the bill and the potential harm it may cause if it causes groups to boycott the state. LGBT advocates said the bill legalizes discrimination.

Supporters, however, said those concerns were misplaced.

“It in no way interferes with our world-class tourism or business communities whatsoever,” Cagle said. “We are simply ensuring that no Georgian suffers at the hand of our government for their view on marriage.”

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