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Greg Bluestein

Nathan Deal says he’ll try to act ‘expeditiously’ on religious liberty measure

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AJC graphic.

AJC graphic.

Gov. Nathan Deal is as tight-lipped as ever on whether he’ll sign Georgia’s contentious “religious liberty” measure into law. But he said Thursday that the decision could come quickly.

“I’ll try to act as expeditiously as possible, especially on major pieces of legislation,” he said, as lawmakers ticked down the final hours of the legislative session. “We don’t have a timeframe.”

The governor has not said whether he’ll sign or veto the legislation, House Bill 757, though he’s warned lawmakers he would not support any legislation that legalizes discrimination. When asked Thursday whether he thought the measure did just that, Deal declined to comment.

MoreThe behind-the-scenes story on Georgia’s religious liberty debate

“I’ve listened to comments and expressions of opinion from both sides on the issue,” he said, when pressed with a different question on the measure. “And I do consider them. I consider all of those opinions.”

Religious conservatives have long sought a way to strengthen legal protections for opponents of same-sex marriage, but the effort crystallized this legislative session on the heels of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling. Critics warn that it amounts to legalized discrimination and warn of a corporate backlash similar to the blowback Indiana faced.

A growing list of corporations have urged Deal to veto the measure or threatened to pull back investment in Georgia if it passes. On Thursday, Time Warner, Fox and Starz all called on the governor to reject the measure. Deal said he’s heard those concerns loud and clear, but that he’s also heard from droves of supporters.

MoreLearn more about the legislation here.

“This is certainly one of those that has attracted more attention than perhaps many others,” he said. “But there are also other people who are citizens of our state, many of them for very long times, and generational constituents for very long times, who may share opposite opinions about this particular piece of legislation.”

He added: “It is a very difficult piece of legislation, and one that I’m looking at very, very carefully.”