Obama spokesman on Georgia’s antigay bill: Equality fight goes on

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a news conference as he announces he has vetoed legislation allowing clergy to refuse performing gay marriage and protecting people who refuse to attend the ceremonies Monday, March 28, 2016, in Atlanta. The Republican rejected the bill on Monday, saying "I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state."

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal speaks during a news conference as he announces he has vetoed legislation allowing clergy to refuse performing gay marriage and protecting people who refuse to attend the ceremonies Monday, March 28, 2016, in Atlanta. The Republican rejected the bill on Monday, saying "I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith based community and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state." AP Photo/David Goldman

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said President Barack Obama was never under the impression that last year’s Supreme Court decision effectively legalizing gay marriage would end the struggle for equality, justice and fairness.

Earnest made the remarks to reporters accompanying Obama as he flew to Atlanta for an unrelated appearance on Tuesday.

The spokesman said the president believes “that we can take all the necessary steps to protect religious freedom without giving people the approval to discriminate against people because of who they love.”

A Georgia bill vetoed by Republican Gov. Nathan Deal on Monday would have allowed clergy to refuse to perform gay marriages and church-affiliated religious groups to invoke faith reasons when refusing to serve or hire someone.

Conservative groups in Georgia say the veto shows he’s turned his back on people of faith.

Representatives for the Georgia Baptist Mission Board, the Faith and Freedom Coalition and others said Tuesday they won’t give up on passing legislation in future years.

A portion of the bill vetoed Monday lets people claiming their religious freedoms have been burdened by state or local laws force governments to prove there’s a “compelling” state interest overriding their beliefs. Supporters say more than 30 states have similar laws.

Republican state Sen. Marty Harbin of Tyrone also called on House and Senate leadership to demand a special session in response to Deal’s veto, joining two other senators.

Legislative leaders have given no sign they will try.

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