Georgia's Republican Gov. Nathan Deal announced March 28 that he will veto a so-called “religious liberty bill” (HB 757) passed by the state legislature that would discriminate against the state's gay and lesbian citizens.
Walt Disney Co. and other large entertainment companies, along with celebrities including many associated with the theatre industry, threatened in recent days to boycott the state of Georgia if Gov. Deal signed the bill into law.
Both Disney and Marvel Studios have shot films in the state in recent years. Disney issued a statement March 24 saying “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.“
Passed the week of March 14, HB 757 would have allowed faith-based organizations to deny services or employment to anyone who violates their “sincerely held religious belief.” It would also have protected religious officials from prosecution if they refused to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Deal said the boycott threats did not influcence his decision to veto, but said it was because he found the bill unnecessary.
“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," he said. The decision, he said, was “about the character of our state and the character of our people. Georgia is a welcoming state. It is full of loving, kind and generous people. ... I intend to do my part to keep it that way. For that reason I will veto House Bill 757.”
The state has become a popular site for shooting movies and TV shows, owing to generous tax breaks. Variety estimated that the state had the third-busiest production schedule, behind only California and New York.
It reads in full:
Dear Governor Deal,
As leaders in the entertainment industry, we have deep concerns about H.B. 757, which would sanction discrimination against LGBT people and others in Georgia.
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. Additionally, the entertainment industry helped to bring more than 100 businesses to Georgia through relocation or expansion in the past fiscal year. Only two states -- California and New York -- have a larger entertainment industry footprint and both have statewide non-discrimination laws on the books. Unfortunately, Georgia not only lacks such a law, but could soon move from a bad situation to worse with H.B. 757.
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.
We urge you to veto H.B. 757 and send a strong message that Georgia will not tolerate discrimination against citizens, employees and visitors to the state.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of this urgent issue.
Ali Adler, Writer and Producer
Greg Berlanti, Writer and Producer
Matt Bomer, Actor & Simon Halls, Publicist
Dustin Lance Black, Screenwriter and Filmmaker
Bradley Bredeweg, Executive Producer and Showrunner
Kristin Chenoweth, Actress and Singer
Diablo Cody, Writer, Producer and Director
Bruce Cohen, Producer
Lee Daniels, Producer and Director
Lucy Fisher, Co-Head, Red Wagon Entertainment
Dana Fox, Writer and Producer
Alan Hergott, Entertainment Attorney
Kevin Huvane, Talent Agent
Nina Jacobson, Producer
Dan Jinks, Producer
Kathy Kennedy, Producer
Zoe Kravitz, Actress
Bryan Lourd, Talent Agent
Seth MacFarlane, Writer, Producer and Director
Laurence Mark, Producer
Frank Marshall, Producer and Director
Brendan Mason, Producer
Neil Meron, Producer
Julianne Moore, Actress
Ryan Murphy, Producer
Peter Paige, Executive Producer and Showrunner
Rob Reiner, Actor, Director and Producer
Sarah Schechter, Producer
Adam Shankman, Director and Producer
Aaron Sorkin, Writer
Marisa Tomei, Actress
Gus Van Sant, Producer and Director
Bob Weinstein, Producer
Harvey Weinstein, Producer and Film Studio Executive
Doug Wick, Co-Head, Red Wagon Entertainment
Craig Zadan, Producer and Director
Asked for comment on the effect the proposed boycott would have on theatrical productions in the state, Disney Theatrical Productions had no official separate statement. However the company has no touring troupes booked in the state in the near future.
Timothy Allen McDonald, founding chairman of iTheatrics and the Junior Theater Group, which holds the annual Junior Theater Festival in Atlanta, issued the following statement: “iTheatrics and the Junior Theater Group provide a safe, discrimination-free space to everyone who loves musical theater through its annual Junior Theater Festivals. We applaud Governor Deal’s previous assertion that he will reject legislation he believes can be used to discriminate. We join our fellow members of the creative community in urging Governor Deal to not allow the proposed discriminatory bill to become law.”
The Junior Theater Festival is sponsored by Playbill, Inc.