It started with a trickle, but within a few hours, Gov. Nathan Deal’s decision to veto “religious liberty” legislation led to an outpouring of support from an unlikely (and probably unwanted) source: Georgia Democrats.
One after another, leading figures in the state’s minority party – so often at odds with the two-term Republican – showered him with praise.
“This places Georgia on the right side of history,” crowed state Rep. Taylor Bennett, who won his Republican-leaning Brookhaven district partly because of his opposition to the legislation.
“Together, we made history today,” declared state Rep. Stacey Evans, a Smyrna Democrat seen as a future statewide candidate by her fellow partisans.
“I am relieved that Gov. Deal did the right thing and vetoed HB 757,” ventured state Sen. Vincent Fort, who usually turns the governor into a punching bag.
Even the Democratic Party of Georgia offered a word of praise for its erstwhile enemy, commending Deal and other Republicans for “standing firm in the belief that our state is better off when we all have full and equal protection under the law.”
So did President Barack Obama, in town on Tuesday for a drug summit, through his spokesman Josh Earnest.
“There should be no doubt about the President’s view of this. The President comes down on the side of fairness and equality, and opposing discrimination in all its forms every time,” he said. “That’s certainly true in these instances. It’s the President’s strong view that we can take all the necessary steps to protect religious freedom without giving people the approval to discriminate against people because of who they love.”
For a Republican trying to block lawmakers from calling a “veto session” to override his decision, the deluge of support from across the aisle was not exactly welcome.
Meanwhile, there was studious silence from friendlier territory. The Georgia GOP, which issued a glowing statement about the “religious liberty” measure after it was approved by lawmakers two weeks ago, issued no comment in the wake of Deal’s veto.