- Associated Press - Monday, February 29, 2016

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia’s governor said Monday that he’s concerned about any legislation that could be “perceived as allowing discrimination.”

The state’s business community has mobilized against a measure approved this session by the Senate to prevent any government penalty against individuals or organization that refuse services to couples based on a religious belief about marriage. Supporters have said it’s intended to prevent religious adoption agencies, schools and other organizations from losing government funding for beliefs about marriage.

Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, said Monday that the bill is “continuing to evolve.”

“I’ve expressed my concern that I do not want us to do anything that may be perceived as allowing discrimination in the state of Georgia,” Deal said. “That is not who we are as a people, and I don’t think we have to do that in order to give the security that the faith-based community thinks they need. I just want to make sure we don’t let that get out of balance in that regard.”

But opponents fear it could be used to deny service to same-sex couples and prompt boycotts against the major brands based in Atlanta and throughout the state. Hundreds of companies, including top employers AT&T;, Coca-Cola, Delta Air Lines, Home Depot and UPS, joined a coalition earlier this year to oppose any legislation that could damage the state’s brand.

The Senate added its language to a House bill that shielded clergy against performing same-sex marriage. The bill has returned to the House. Speaker David Ralston, the House’s top Republican, told reporters last week that lawmakers need to proceed carefully and said he’d heard companies’ concerns.

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