US POLITICS

The NFL And Porsche Kept Georgia’s LGBT Bigotry In Check

Discrimination doesn't come cheap

Mar 28, 2016 at 8:58 PM ET

Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced on Monday that he would veto a controversial bill to protect religious institutions from the legal consequences of discriminating against people who don’t adhere to their beliefs. In other words, a bill that would have allowed discrimination against gay people—specifically, married gay people.

“I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia,” Deal said at a news conference Monday morning, where he declined to take questions from reporters. One question that certainly would have come up is how influential the business community was in influencing the governor’s decision—because, as other states have learned the hard way, bigotry doesn’t come cheap.

Georgia’s “Religious Liberty” bill was passed on March 16. Governor Deal spent nearly two weeks weighing his decision before announcing his plan to veto it. As Deal contemplated his decision, hundreds of Georgia businesses, including Porsche, Coca-Cola and Home Depot, and other community leaders urged him to not sign it because of the economic impact it could potentially have on the state—which hopes to land the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl—from groups that threatened to boycott Georgia businesses. The NFL weighed in on the legislation before Deal’s announcement that he would veto the bill, warning that a discriminatory law like this one would be “one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.” The Super Bowl brings in anywhere from $30 million to $500 million to host cities, depending on whom you ask.

The Super Bowl is just a piece of the potential economic catastrophe the bill could have had on Georgia’s economy—a study conducted by the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce (MACC) and the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau found that a boycott of Georgia could cost the state nearly $2 billion if out-of-state companies refuse to do business with Georgia, or if tourists avoid the state over its discriminatory legislation.

“This legislation is in conflict with the values of diversity and inclusion that Georgians hold dear and could erode Georgia’s hard-earned status as the No. 1 state for business—and would harm our ability to create and keep jobs that Georgia families depend upon,” the MACC said in a statement.

The boycott of an entire state is not unprecedented. In 2010, a bill that allowed law enforcement officials to ask anyone for their citizenship papers at any time cost the Grand Canyon State an estimated $140 million, according to a study from the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning, Washington-based think-tank. Critics argued that the law—which was dubbed the “Breathing While Brown” law—targeted Hispanics and gave law enforcement the legal authority to racially profile people they thought might be illegal immigrants.

The potential loss of business and tourism aren’t the only costs Georgia likely avoided when Deal said he’d veto the bill; there’s also the potential legal costs the state would have to dole out to defend the bill if its constitutionality was ever questioned in the court system—which is exactly what happened in North Carolina on Monday, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the state over a recently passed law that advocates say discriminates against the LGBT community.

“It is a dangerous law and a disgrace,” Chase Strangio, an ACLU staff attorney wrote on the group’s website on Monday. “It is also unconstitutional. And today we are suing to strike it down.”