UPDATE – 3/28/16: Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has elected to veto the bill in question, stating “I do not think we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia, of which I and my family have been a part of for all of our lives”. Original story follows.
Probably no state has invested more to attract and cultivate the entertainment industry like Georgia. Seven years ago, Georgia implemented one of the country’s most aggressive film tax incentive programs. Tens of billions of dollars later and Georgia has emerged as the entertainment hub of the South, with hundreds of commercials, music videos, television shows and features being produced there. However, it may all be for naught if Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signs a piece of legislation, the “Free Exercise Protection Act” (originally entitled “The Pastor Protection Act”), which actively promotes the discrimination of the LGBT community.
Essentially if Governor Deal passes the bill, it will allow not only churches, but anyone to refuse renting property, employing or doing business with any group or individual who offends their sense of morality. So if a person believes that someone lives outside their idea of what is “godly”, they can refuse to do business with them, refuse to rent them property and deny them employment. The bill will essentially legalize active discrimination.
This week, many major Hollywood companies, including Time Warner (whose CNN is based in Atlanta), 21st Century Fox, Comcast (which includes NBC Universal), Sony Pictures, CBS, Discovery Communications, Lionsgate and Starz, released statements opposing the law and urging Deal to veto it. The Weinstein Company said it will move production of an upcoming Richard Pryor biopic, directed by Lee Daniels and starring Eddie Murphy and Oprah Winfrey, set to shoot in Georgia later this year if the bill passes.
More than 30 Hollywood heavyweights—including Lee Daniels, Aaron Sorkin, Ryan Murphy and Greg Berlanti—released a letter through the Human Rights Campaign today vowing they will not work in Georgia if the bill passes.
AMC Networks who films “The Walking Dead” in Georgia has issued the following statement:
“As a company, AMC Networks believes that discrimination of any kind is reprehensible. We applaud Governor Deal’s leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well.”
Disney and Marvel Studios released the following statement:
“Disney and Marvel are inclusive companies, and although we have had great experiences filming in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law,” a Disney spokesman said.
Time Warner released the following statement:
“At Time Warner, diversity in all its forms is core to our value system and to the success of our business,” the company said in a statement released Thursday morning. “We strongly oppose the discriminatory language and intent of Georgia’s pending religious liberty bill, which clearly violates the values and principles of inclusion and the ability of all people to live and work free from discrimination. All of our divisions — HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner — have business interests in Georgia but none more than Turner, an active participant in the Georgia Prospers campaign, a coalition of business leaders committed to a Georgia that welcomes all people. Georgia bill HB 757 is in contradiction to this campaign, to the values we hold dear, and to the type of workplace we guarantee to our employees. We urge Governor Deal to exercise his veto.”
21st Century Fox also released a statement:
“On behalf of 21st Century Fox’s many creative partners and colleagues who choose to film their projects in the beautiful state of Georgia, we join the growing coalition of businesses in asking Governor Deal to veto this bill,” it reads.
Lionsgate sent out a statement:
“Lionsgate has deep roots in the State of Georgia in our film, television and location-based entertainment businesses,” Lionsgate said. “As a Company committed to diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance, we urge the Governor of Georgia to veto the deplorable and regressive legislation (House Bill 757) that has been sent to him. We take pride in our relationship with the people of Georgia and want to ensure that we can continue to offer our employees and talent there a working environment consistent with our policies and values.”
CBS also followed up with a statement on Thursday:
“CBS Corporation is committed to an environment that values diversity and inclusion throughout the company and in all our business practices,” reads that statement. “The discriminatory language in Georgia’s proposed religious liberty bill conflicts with these core ethics and values. We call on Governor Deal to exercise his veto power.”
Comcast NBC Universal’s statement:
“At Comcast NBCUniversal we are proud of our record of inclusion and stand against discrimination of all forms. We join the voices that urge Governor Deal to protect Georgia from any discriminatory laws.”
Viacom, the parent company of Paramount, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, VH1, Spike and MTV, made a statement:
“Viacom is proud to champion diversity and acceptance, which are core values of our company,” a company spokesperson stated. “We have enjoyed doing business in Georgia for many years and we urge Governor Deal to continue to resist and reject the patently discriminatory laws being proposed.”
The city of Atlanta hopes to land a Super Bowl in the near future after its new stadium for the Atlanta Falcons is due to open in 2017. Their hopes may be dashed should the discriminatory bill pass. An NFL spokesperson warned that if local laws do not meet league policies that emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, they will take their business elsewhere.
Gov. Deal, who must decide by May 3 whether to veto the bill, has not indicated how he intends to proceed. It’s clear now that if Deal doesn’t make the right decision, Georgia will not only lose Hollywood, but it will also find itself on the wrong side of history.
Read the bill here: