In recent history, the state of Georgia has become a major hub for the film industry. Thanks to favorable tax incentives, Hollywood has found the Peach State mighty appealing – during the 2015 fiscal year alone, 248 film and television productions filmed in the state, generating about $1.7 billion in revenue and creating a massive amount of local jobs in the community. The tide may be turning however, as the industry looks to see if the state will pass The Free Exercise Protection Act, a controversial and potentially discriminatory piece of legislation. The Walt Disney Company, the largest entertainment corporation in the world, has already weighed in opposition of the pending religious liberty bill.
If the bill were to become law, protection would be granted for faith-based organizations to deny services or employment to those who don’t share same said values; religious officials would also be protected if they choose not to partake in same-sex marriage ceremonies. The bill passed through the state Assembly last week and now Georgia governor Nathan Deal (R) has until May 3rd to either pass or veto. If this piece of legislation does come to be, however, it could cause major problems for Georgia’s robust current relationship with the Hollywood community as well as other major corporations and entities that have already expressed opposition for The Free Exercise Protection Act. A spokesman for Disney said in a 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.
Currently, the upcoming Marvel film Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 is filming right outside Atlanta at Pinewood Studios. Captain America: Civil War and Ant-Man also took advantage of Georgia’s favorable tax incentives. Other lucrative properties filmed in the state include The Hunger Games franchise and the television smash The Walking Dead. AMC Networks, who is behind the zombie powerhouse also issued a 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.
As of yet, none of the other major studios- Universal, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, Paramount or Sony – have weighed in. The Disney decision was sparked after Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin urged the major studios to boycott the Peach State if Gov. Deal doesn’t veto the bill.
It’s appalling that anti-LGBT activists in Georgia are trying to pass legislation creating an explicit right to discriminate against LGBT Americans. We urge other studios, major corporations, and fair-minded Georgians to continue speaking out and urging Gov. Deal to veto this heinous piece of legislation sitting on his desk.
As of yet, Gov. Deal has not expressed whether or not he will sign or veto the bill. We will stay tuned.