Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal says he will veto the ‘religious liberty’ bill that brought on a wave of criticism from executives from Disney, Time Warner, Apple, Intel and the NFL. Media relations reps all said they’d sever ties with the state if the legislation wasn’t changed. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the governor made his decision today. “[The bill] doesn’t reflect the character of our state or the character of its people,” the article states Deal said. “Their efforts to purge this bill of any possibility that it would allow or encourage discrimination illustrates how difficult it is to legislate something that is best left to the board of protections of the First Amendment.” Georgia’s filming industry—the location for the “Hunger Games” franchise along with “Ant-Man,” “X-Men: First Class,” “Taken 3” and many other titles—may soon cease to be a hot spot.
On Wednesday, The Walt Disney Co. and its subsidiary Marvel threatened to boycott Georgia as a filming location if the Free Exercise Protection Act—approved by the state’s legislature last week—becomes law.
The Washington Post outlined the bill, which critics say promotes discrimination:
The bill, which is sitting on the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal (R), protects religious leaders from being forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies and individuals from being forced to attend such events. It also allows faith-based organizations to deny use of their facilities for events they find “objectionable” and exempts them from having to hire or retain any employee whose religious beliefs or practices differ from those of the organization.
The governor has until May 3 to sign or veto the bill. Until that time, increased pressure by organizations will heavily influence Deal’s decision, The New York Times reported:
Corporate opposition, strategists said, will be central to the efforts to defeat the bill with Mr. Deal, who is known for his careful cultivation of the business community. Supporters of the law said corporate involvement would be meddling.
For Disney and Marvel—which shot “Ant-Man” and “Captain America: Civil War” outside Atlanta, and is filming “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” there—the up-to-30-percent tax credit doesn’t provide enough incentive to keep filming there if the bill is enacted.
Variety reported that a Disney spokesman issued 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.
Production companies bolster Disney’s stance
The Los Angeles Times reported that AMC also took a stand on the issue, though it did not threaten to boycott the state if the bill becomes law.
The network—which films “The Walking Dead” mainly in Georgia” issued the following statement to reporters:
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.
Vanity Fair reported that Viacom added its voice to companies opposing the legislation and gave the following statement:
Viacom is proud to champion diversity and acceptance, which are core values of our company. 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.
Wednesday’s statements come after Vans Stevenson, Motion Picture Association of America’s senior VP of state government affairs, told reporters the organization is “confident” that the bill will not be signed.
“We are confident that Governor Deal will not allow a discriminatory bill to become law in Georgia,” Stevenson said.
“Georgia reported $1.7 billion in in-state spending on film and television productions in the 2015 fiscal year,” The Post reported.
Additional brands weigh in
However, the state stands to lose more than just Hollywood’s business.
Think Progress reported that more than 480 organizations—including Coca-Cola, Home Depot and Delta—have publicly opposed the bill.
The Washington Post reported that Apple issued the following statement:
Our stores and our company are open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. We urge Gov. Deal to veto the discriminatory legislation headed to his desk and send a clear message that Georgia’s future is one of inclusion, diversity and continued prosperity.
The Post also reported that Salesforce threatened to “reduce investments” in the state and move its conference elsewhere:
Salesforce will have to reduce investments in Georgia, including moving the Salesforce Connections conference to a state that provides a more welcoming environment for the LGBTQ community.
Georgia and the NFL
Passing the bill could also slash hopes that the Atlanta Falcons—whose new stadium is schedule to open in 2017—could host the Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020.
On March 18, National Football League spokesman Brian McCarthy issued the following statement:
NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard. 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.