UPDATE: On Monday, March 28, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced he will veto the bill at issue here, as I and many other suspected he would.


Georgia’s efforts to bolster discrimination and uplift bigotry as if it were some sort of Christian virtue have given this otherwise great state a deserved black eye. There is legislation sitting on Gov. Nathan Deal’s desk right now (just to the left over there … no, under the Rubik’s Cube) that opens the door for some good, old-fashioned discrimination. Thankfully, while our governor may be ethically challenged, he’s not stupid — so I expect him to veto this bill. Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee his veto will stand.

It started in the House as a pastor protection bill that would allow pastors to opt out of marrying same-sex couples. I doubt a whole lot of same-sex couples thought “Gee, I hope that bigoted pastor will marry us!” which probably explains why it passed the House unanimously. Same-sex couples didn’t care, and pastors were placated. All was well in the world, and we could go back to counting down the days to the kickoff of Georgia’s football season.

But not so fast, my friend, as Lee Corso would say. The state Senate is jam-packed with pandering politicians who know know the easiest way to lock up your seat of power is to appeal to the lowest common denominators of thinking — especially the folks who proclaim to love Jesus but disagree with everything He was quoted as saying in the Bible. It’s like the old vinyl record in their brain called “The Bible” is eternally skipping on one groove of Leviticus.

The state Senate is jam-packed with pandering politicians who know know the easiest way to lock up your seat of power is to appeal to the lowest common denominators of thinking — especially the folks who proclaim to love Jesus but disagree with everything He was quoted as saying in the Bible.

These senators got together and said, “This House bill is a good start, but there’s not enough in it to make Jesus vomit.” So they tweaked it to something just short of instituting regular stonings. After some hashing out between the two chambers, they passed a compromise bill with just enough bigotry to satisfy the Senate and enough vagueness to satisfy the House. It pretty much allows religious nonprofits and churches to discriminate against homosexuals. (That’s the one groove from Leviticus where their brains are stuck — if it gets unstuck, they might get around to banning shrimp or wearing cotton-polyester blends.)

Now, everyone from Disney to Marvel and from Salesforce to Delta is lobbying against the bill. Many companies have threatened to leave. Georgia recently has risen to become the Hollywood of the South, trailing only California and New York in movie and television production. That status could be short-lived. Beyond the embarrassment brought upon us by the bigots, the economic ramifications could be devastating and long-lasting.

However, I don’t think the governor wants to be the one who puts his official signature on Georgia’s economic and cultural collapse. He’ll veto it. Unfortunately, they have more than enough votes in the Senate to override that veto when they reconvene next year — and the House is very close to having enough. Both chambers must vote with a two-thirds majority to override. They might do just that. If they do, ironically, all Hell will break loose.

But even if the bigots win the war, this is my state. I won’t leave because of their actions. If decent people fled every time bad folks got the upper hand, the bad folks would have their run of the world’s greatest places.

Georgia is, indeed, one such great place. We’ve got a mix of geography from Pine Mountain and Brasstown Bald to Saint Simons and Cumberland Island. We’ve got the Chattahoochee River and the Okefenokee Swamp. We get to eat at Troy’s Snack Shack and Mullet Bay and all those mom-and-pop restaurants whose quality is judged by the number of pickup trucks in the parking lot. We gave the world Martin Luther King Jr., Ray Charles, Lewis Grizzard, Jackie Robinson and Burt Reynolds.  (Of course, we also gave it lawmakers like Josh McKoon and Greg Kirk, who pushed through this legislation, but who’s keeping count?) We’ve got great small towns like Oglethorpe and Glennville, slightly bigger yet still quaint towns like Americus and Perry, even bigger cool towns like Valdosta and Rome and bustling, not-too-big cities like Macon and Augusta. We can stroll River Street in Savannah and perhaps my favorite paved stretch in all of Georgia — Broadway in Columbus. We’ve got The Masters in April and the Georgia Bulldogs in September.

Simply put, we’ve got a lot. And that doesn’t count all the secret hiding spots I know throughout this state. I’m not giving those up. I’m not giving any of it up. One day, we’ll move past all this. It just takes a little hindsight to see that bigots and racists always turned out to be on the wrong side of history. Obviously, that hasn’t stopped them from trying to hold us back, but history shows they will fail in the end.

So, on one hand, you can look at Georgia like this …

Or you can look at it as I do. I used to stay up late during my younger days and often saw this clip below as Georgia Public Television signed off for the night. It was a nice reminder at the end of the day of why I live in Georgia and always will. I love this state, and if it turns out years from now that it’s just me surrounded by 10 million bigots, faux Christians or just otherwise hateful folks, I’m still not backing down and I’m still not leaving. Sometimes the rest of the marching band is out of step — that’s not a reason to leave the band. This is my state. And it’s better than what too many folks are seeing of it right now. …