Georgia Governor Vetoes Anti-Gay Legislation, High Point Market Loses Business from North Carolina Law

March 28, 2016

While the convention and meetings industry is able to breathe a sigh of relief today in Georgia, headaches abound in North Carolina, after both states recently dealt with legislation that was deemed discriminatory to the gay community by many.  

Less than two weeks after the Georgia assembly voted through House Bill 757 – the Free Exercise Protection Act, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed the bill.  

The bill would have allowed churches to refuse to perform gay marriages and not hire people they felt conflicted with their religious beliefs, which prompted big-name companies, such as Coca-Cola, NFL and a bevy of Hollywood studios to say their business in the state would be threatened.

It also would not have bode well for the meetings and conventions business in the state.

“Today, Gov. Deal ensured Atlanta’s position as a top meetings and conventions destination by his swift action in vetoing HB 757,” said William Pate, Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO.

He added, “By his decision, the governor has shown his continued support for one of the largest industries and employers in the state of Georgia.”

Gov. Deal said that Georgia was a “welcoming state with warm and loving people.”

He added, “If indeed our religious liberty is conferred by God and not by man-made government, we should heed the 'hands-off' admonition of the First Amendment to our Constitution. When legislative bodies attempt to do otherwise, the inclusions and omissions in their statues can lead to discrimination, even though it may be unintentional.”

In North Carolina, the High Point Market Authority is dealing with a swift backlash after a new law was passed that would block transgender individuals from using a public bathroom that matched their gender identity.

“In the last few days, dozens of customers have contacted the High Point Market Authority to inform us that they have cancelled plans to attend the Market in April due to passage of HB2,” said the High Point Market Executive Committee in a statement.

The committee said the law was not only causing damage to the High Point Market, but also the North Carolina economy overall.

“Based on the reaction in just the last few days, hundreds and perhaps thousands of our customers will not attend Market this April,” they added.

The High Point Market – Spring is on tap April 16-20, attracting more than 75,000 attendees to the biannual editions.

Both states possibly could have taken a page from Indiana’s lesson book, after that state passed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” last year that was later reworked when several large groups and businesses threatened to boycott the state.

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