Gay rights advocates say discrimination could soon be legal in Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal signs a bill now on his desk. The controversial Religious Liberty Bill—which would allow churches and pastors to refuse to serve same-sex couples, at least in theory—passed the Georgia legislature late Wednesday, reports Reuters. Deal previously said he wouldn't sign a bill allowing discrimination, though he hasn't commented since the bill passed. It would also allow faith-based groups to refuse to rent to people for events they find "objectionable" and to fire people who hold religious beliefs with which they don't agree, reports the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. However, the Religious Liberty Bill can't allow "discrimination on any grounds prohibited by federal or state law," which might nullify some of its provisions.
"We feel we've advanced our protection of our First Amendment Right to religious freedom," says a rep for the Georgia Baptist Convention. The Human Rights Campaign has a different view. "The decision by the legislature today was to make an egregious and discriminatory bill even worse," the group says. "It's appalling that anti-equality extremists in the legislature are trying to ignore the will of the people of Georgia." Corporate community members including Microsoft, Google, and Coca-Cola oppose the bill and say Georgia's economy will suffer if it becomes law. Studies show the state could see a negative economic impact of $1 billion to $2 billion if national groups start boycotts. The gay founder of telecommunications firm 373K has already promised to move the company's headquarters out of the state, per CBS News. (Read more Georgia stories.)