Georgia’s anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill draws fire

BY TROY MASTERS  |  The economic fallout from the state of Georgia’s House Bill 757, a bill that allows faith-based organizations and individuals to opt out of serving couples — gay or straight — or from following anti-discrimination requirements — if they cited “a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” regarding marriage, continues as Disney and its Marvel Studios film unit announced Wednesday that they will pull out of Georgia permanently if Gov. Nathan Deal signs the bill into law. The comments came in a Disney statement to the Hollywood Reporter.

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“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 company spokesman said Wednesday.

The state has had a thriving relationship with Marvel up until now, with movies like “Ant-Man,” “Captain America: Civil War” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” all being filmed here, drawn by Georgia’s hefty tax incentives. The Hollywood Reporter states that while Disney’s statement specifically mentioned Marvel, other Disney units like ABC Studios and Disney Studios would also boycott the state as well.

Disney’s announcement came following Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin’s call for Hollywood productions to pull out of Georgia if the bill passes.

“We applaud Disney and Marvel for standing up for fairness and equality by sending a strong warning to Governor Deal,” Griffin said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”

Disney’s announcement also comes on the heels of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau’s statement that over 15 companies may move their conventions out of Atlanta if the bill passes, torpedoing the city’s convention business by 40 percent over the next five years and costing the city’s economy over $6 billion.

The entertainment firms joined a host of other international heavyweights that voiced their opposition to the measure, which passed the Georgia Legislature last week. Executives from Apple, Salesforce and other tech firms have urged Deal to veto the legislation, while the NFL warned it could risk Atlanta’s bid for the Super Bowl.

The California Endowment, a private endowment fund based in Los Angeles, also sent letters to four Georgia-based corporations Wednesday warning that it could pull millions of dollars in investments from the state if the measure is enacted. The extent of the fund’s investments in Georgia is not immediately clear.

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