As Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal decides whether to approve the controversial “religious liberty bill” that would allow faith-based business owners to cite religious beliefs in denying services to same-sex couples, the outcry from Hollywood has been swift and decisive: veto or say goodbye to the “Hollywood of the South.”
On Thursday, the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest organization supporting the LGBT community, issued an open letter signed by nearly 40 Hollywood heavyweights telling Deal they would no longer work in the state if the recently passed House Bill 757 is signed into law.
“We pride ourselves on running inclusive companies, and while we have enjoyed a positive partnership on productions in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere if any legislation sanctioning discrimination is signed into state law,” the letter states.
Its signers include Anne Hathaway, Julianne Moore, Matt Bomer, Lee Daniels, Seth MacFarlane, Ryan Murphy, Aaron Sorkin, Marisa Tomei, Harvey Weinstein and others who also pointed out the financial ramifications of losing their support.
“As you know, Atlanta is often referred to as the Hollywood of the South. During the last fiscal year, at least 248 films and television productions were shot in Georgia, adding at least $1.7 billion in direct spending to the state’s economy.
“Only two states – California and New York – have a larger entertainment industry footprint and both have statewide non-discrimination laws on the books,” it continued.
The bill landed on Deal’s desk on March 16 after Georgia lawmakers signed the bill after more than three years of legislation. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the bill would allow faith-based businesses to deny services to those who are not in line with their “sincerely held religious belief,” as well as the right to fire employees who do not concur with their views.
Conservative groups including the Faith and Freedom Coalition are urging people to contact the governor to support the bill, which has been condemned by the state’s pro sports franchises and leading tech corporations, including Apple, Intel, PayPal and Yelp.
Hollywood has been particularly outspoken in its opposition to the bill. In addition to Thursday’s letter, The Weinstein Company issued a statement vowing to cease production of the latest Lee Daniels film if the bill passes.
“The Weinstein Company will not stand behind sanctioning the discrimination of LGBT people or any American. We have plans in place to begin filming Lee Daniels’ new film in Georgia later this year, but will move the production if this unlawful bill is enacted. We hope Governor Deal will veto bill HB 757 and not allow sanctioned bigotry to become law in Georgia,” a company spokesman said Thursday.
The company joins Disney, Viacom, Starz, 21st Century Fox and Lionsgate in speaking out against the bill.
“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, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
AMC, which films its hit series The Walking Dead in the state, also condemned the measure while stopping short of boycott promises.
“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,” it said per THR.
Deal has until May 3 to sign the bill. Although he has yet to comment on it since it was passed by the state legislature, he expressed concerns about it earlier this month – and is well aware of the pressure he’s receiving from corporations who oppose it.
According to the AJC, the Baptist Republican governor said early this month that he would reject any measure that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.”
“I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us, and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs,” he also said. “But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that. And that’s the compromise that I’m looking for.”