Georgia 'anti-gay bill' could prevent Atlanta from hosting a Super Bowl

The Falcons new stadium might not get to host the NFL's biggest game. (Falcons.com)
The Falcons' new stadium might not get to host the NFL's biggest game. (Falcons.com)

A controversial bill in Georgia is one signature away from becoming law and if that happens, there's a good chance the NFL won't allow Atlanta to host any future Super Bowls while the law is in effect.

House Bill 757 was passed by the Georgia Senate on Wednesday and now just needs a signature from Gov. Nathan Deal to become a law.

If Deal signs the bill, the law would allow pastors in the state to not perform same-sex weddings if that makes them uncomfortable. It would also give faith-based organizations in Georgia the option of refusing services to anyone they find "objectionable."

Faith-based organizations could also make the decision to not hire people -- or not retain current employees -- if that person's "religious beliefs or practices ... are not in accord with the faith-based organization's sincerely held religious belief."

The bill is being called an anti-gay law because it would essentially make it legal to for faith-based organization to discriminate against gay people or any other "objectionable group."

The executive director of the Georgia Equality group, Jeff Graham, says that Deal needs to veto the bill that most people in Georgia aren't supporting. 

"Conservatives, legal experts, people of faith, businesses and more than 75,000 Georgians expressed their strong opposition to legislation which threatens our state's economy and reputation, and which very clearly singles out LGBT people and others for harm," Graham said, via the Human Rights Campaign. "It's shameful that lawmakers in the House ignored this feedback and, rather than taking steps to mitigate any potential fallout, actually made a bad bill worse."

In a statement to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the NFL said that if the bill passes, Atlanta could lose out on the opportunity to host any future Super Bowls. The city hasn't hosted the NFL's biggest game since 2000. 

"NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard," the NFL's statement said. "Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites."

Arizona lost out on hosting a Super Bowl after the 1992 season because the state didn't honor the Martin Luther King Jr. Day. 

Arthur Blank spoke out against House Bill 757. (USATSI)

Falcons owner Arthur Blank doesn't want to see something similar happen to his city, especially since he's set to open a $1.4 billion stadium in 2017. 

"One of my bedrock values is 'Include Everyone' and it's a principle we embrace and strive to live each and every day with my family and our associates, a vast majority of which live and work in Georgia," Blank said in a statement. "I strongly believe a diverse, inclusive and welcoming Georgia is critical to our citizens and the millions of visitors coming to enjoy all that our great state has to offer. House Bill 757 undermines these principles and would have long-lasting negative impact on our state and the people of Georgia."

If Deal doesn't sign the law, then there's a good chance Atlanta will land a Super Bowl in either 2019 or 2020. The game is set for Houston in February 2017 and Minnesota in February 2018. 

CBS Sports Writer

John Breech has been at CBS Sports since July 2011 and currently spends most of his time writing about the NFL. He's believed to be one of only three people in the world who thinks that Andy Dalton will... Full Bio

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