Even if Studios Boycott Georgia, There Are a Lot Worse Places They Do Business (ANALYSIS)

Georgia legislature
Jason Grindle/Shutterstock

A cascade of major media companies has been releasing statements condemning a pending Georgia religious liberty bill, in some cases vowing to withhold production just as the state is successfully on the road to being the Hollywood of the south.

Their public remarks are aimed at Gov. Nathan Deal, who has not yet said whether he will sign the legislation. But it also raises questions about whether studios, having threatened a boycott over a discriminatory law in one state, would apply the same standards to a plethora of other regions where human rights are far from stellar.

Take Abu Dhabi, a metropolis which has become a production hub as it offers a set of generous incentives, with “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” “The Bourne Legacy” and “Fast & Furious 7” some of the recent productions to shoot there. In the United Arab Emirates, it’s not a question of determining whether a law protecting religious liberty could be used to discriminate against gays, lesbians and transgender individuals. There is already a law that criminalizes homosexuality, punishable by death, according to the Human Rights Campaign. It may not be widely enforced, particularly in cosmopolitan Abu Dhabi, but the law is on the books.


Nathan Deal Georgia Religious Liberity

Hollywood Condemns Georgia’s Religious Liberty Bill

Or there’s Singapore, where visual effects facilities have located with the lure of subsidies, and studios have sent effects work for movies such as “Godzilla” and “Man of Steel.” In that country, male same-sex relations are criminalized.

Closer to home, there is North Carolina. On Thursday lawmakers passed, and the governor later signed, legislation that essentially strips any LGBT protections in local municipalities. The state scaled back its production incentive two years ago, but it is still drawing some productions. Rob Reiner has already vowed not to shoot there unless the law is repealed.

This isn’t to say that studios should just stay silent. The purpose of the flurry of studio statements is to pressure Georgia and prevent a law from happening, rather than react to one that is already on the books. And studios come at it with a healthy degree of leverage: The state, with a generous 30% tax credit, now ranks the No. 3 production area, after California and New York.

But Hollywood still doesn’t escape criticism of engaging in a double standard. After Disney and Marvel issued statements condemning the legislation, one of the bill’s sponsors in the State Senate says it’s hypocritical to single out the state when an 18-year-old Florida law is stronger in its protections of religious freedom.

That “hypocrisy” charge came up when entertainment industry figures launched a boycott in 2014 of the Beverly Hills Hotel and other properties because of their ownership by a group affiliated with the Sultan of Brunei, who has instituted shariah law in his country.

Executives with the Dorchester Collection, the parent company of the property, argued that the boycott would hurt not just employees, but also also asked why other hotel chains, like the Four Seasons, with Saudi royal family ownership, weren’t being singled out.

Those “double standard” arguments didn’t stop groups from shunning the hotel. The Polo Lounge was nearly deserted for a time. The city of Beverly Hills called for Brunei to divest itself from the property.

The sultan has not divested the hotel, and industry figures have started to trickle back.

In Georgia, supporters of the bill are pushing back at Disney, the entertainment industry and even the NFL, which has also issued a statement against the bill.

More than anything, boycotts and threats of boycotts are about timing and strategy, of getting some specific result in a fairly short degree of time. Critics may find contradictions, but those arguments get obscured by the threat of Atlanta missing out on a Super Bowl or the state losing the next “Captain America” megapic.

And while this is pressure on the state’s governor, it’s important to note that the MPAA has expressed confidence that he will not sign the legislation. But studios are now on record against HB 757. Far from being a thorn in his side, they may be helping him out, giving him some cover if he chooses to say no.

Update: More on the context of the Florida law here.

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  1. The Truth says:

    Regarding HB 757, it’s unconstitutional for the State to compel Church officials to conduct weddings or other religious rites they believe violate the free exercise of their faith. The Constitution does not grant citizens the right to be married in the church of their choice by the religious official of their choice, but it does grant Church officials the right to refuse to perform a wedding on religious grounds.

    The problem occurs when the State invests Church marriages with legal status. The constitutional separation of Church and State implicitly prohibits this activity. To be legally binding in accordance with all the provisions of State laws regarding marriage, a State-sanctioned marriage ceremony involving the execution of a civil union contract should be a standard requirement. A State official does not have the right to refuse to grant a marriage license or marry a couple, unless the marriage violates a State law. A Church marriage should have no legally binding status. That federal law does not specifically mandate a non-religious observance for any marriage to be legally binding is a flaw in our legal system that should be corrected now.

    Hence, Church officials should have no State legal powers regarding marriage, and State officials should not be allowed to interfere with Church policies, unless they rise to the level of criminal abuse. Otherwise, conflicts of interest can easily occur, which our nation’s founders purposefully intended to avoid. If you want to be married in the eyes of the Church, that’s between you and the Church. If you want to be married in the eyes of the State, that’s between you and the State. Your Church wedding is sacred. Your State marriage is secular and the only marriage recognized by a court of law. If a Church elects to adopt socially unenlightened positions on marriage of LGBT citizens or any other arbitrary classification of citizens, that’s an unfortunate price Americans must pay to preserve religious freedom.

    This constitutionally protected right to discriminate on the basis of religious beliefs does not apply to faith-based organizations that conduct business in the public square and are thus subject to State statutes outlawing discrimination. Any statutes that allow discrimination which restricts equal rights of citizens on the basis of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious preference are unconstitutional. For this reason, Governor Deal should veto HB 757. But no Georgia state legislation should be necessary to protect the rights of Church officials who refuse to perform marriages on religious grounds. Our Constitution already does that.

  2. The Truth says:

    If corporate entities and members of the entertainment complex are authentic supporters of equal rights under the law for the LGBT community and other factions victimized by discriminatory policies, they should walk the talk wherever and whenever these rights are denied or compromised. Its undeniably hypocritical to pour significant funds into the economies of American states and foreign nations that support practices these companies and their creative contractors purport to condemn.

    But isn’t accepting money from these offenders equally or even more two-faced? This would include revenues garnered from marketing films, television shows, any other media properties and associated branded merchandise in these states and nations. Taking the income hit, rather than merely withholding spending, would truly demonstrate complete depth of conviction.

    Will we be seeing this level of commitment any time soon? Don’t hold your breath.

    • Lin Brennan says:

      And I see this exactly opposite. Just when did the people allow the State to get involved in personal relationships on any level. Used to be marriages were performed by the churches, and you simply had to register them with the local official as the contracts really which they are. Or live together for 7 years and you were common law spouses. Going to the state to ask permission to enter into a personal relationship such as marriage to me flies in the face of freedom and liberty. Those laws were strengthen to control who could marry, and who could not and it started out with keeping mixed marriages for occurring. I say, go back to the old way. The separation of Church and state is also misunderstood. It was basically to keep a federal or state religion from happening as what the Quakers had experienced under the Church of England’s (a country wide religion) control of the monarchy. It was also to keep the government out of the church’s business. And as a Christian, I obviously feel Christ was the most political activist who ever lived.

      Keep government out of marriages, until they dissolve as the contracts which they are, and then only for property division and inheritance issues. Bigamy is against the law, and so is polygamy. Marriage is an institution, and has religious meaning to the majority of Americans actually. If two gay people wish to marry in a church, then they should start their own like John Knox, Martin Luther, and the other religious reformers. You cannot make laws that dictate people’s closely held beliefs or dictate through law what people must do or not do outside of laws protecting property loss or damage or personal bodily injury to another. Nor can you force people to accept what to them is unacceptable. Forget the creator, only men and women can procreate without medical or scientific intervention. So what does that say about natural law?

  3. john says:

    Liberals just need something to whine about. If they don’t have something to whine about they go crazy.

  4. joi karen says:

    Georgia is wrong on SO many levels, have always been on the wrong side of everything, still lives in the 19th century, is racist, sexist, homophobic and downright mean. so maybe that’s why Georgia has been chosen in this Lottery of hateful other countries.

  5. What’s wrong with respecting someone’s religious beliefs? As long as they’re not overtly discriminating for hateful reasons I don’t see a problem. I am a huge supporter of gay rights. It seems to me there needs to be a little respect and understanding on the other side of this debate. This is a brave new world that has come very quickly after the SCOTUS decision. Give people time to learn and adjust and all will be well.

  6. This isn’t to say that studios should just stay silent.” Oh really? I thought we had Washington to tell us how to think. Now this? You know what? Vote for Bernie and you’ll all be taxed at a 92% rate. Then you won’t have the money to preach to anybody.

  7. GKN says:

    It may be a bit much to suppose that everyone who checks into a hotel knows who owns it. I sure as hell don’t, as a rule.

    But one thing all JOURNALISTS could do to help dis-empower homophobes (if that is this fellow’s intention, which is far from clear) is to stop referring to these laws as “protections of religious freedoms” – and start referring to them as what they are: “Christian my way or the highway laws.”

    • Ruth says:

      Yeah GKN, because pastors should knowtow to homosexuals to do not go their church and are called an abomination by their God. And you cowardly pick on Christians while avoiding discussing Muslims who want to cut your throat for being effeminate. Coward.Since you HAVE to blame someone, you pick the easiest target to blame.

  8. Mark says:

    Boycott is the Stupidest thing that Hollywood could do. Here is why.

    Georgia is the Heart of the Republican South politically and judicially.
    If they really wanted change, they would accelerate activity in the state, not decrease it.
    If they cannot attempt to win hearts and minds in the USA then Hollywood can stop with the farce of going to other places around the world individually or in groups pretending that they are bringing any real change anywhere at all.

  9. 2tellthetruth says:

    Gay-stapo and homo-nazis are looking for an opportunity to attack Gods people because they can’t get at God. He will one day throw them into hell forever if they don’t repent, because Homo-sex is sin.

    • Usa says:

      I am quite sure they know it is sin and things are NOT going to get better.

    • Why do I have to follow what you or your INVISIBLE SKY FAIRY says ? In this country there is FREEDOM FROM RELIGION, and I choose that. If I do NOT believe, your “religion” holds nothing on me. That is FREEDOM. We will see what happens when the Supreme Court finds the actions of North Carolina and Georgia are UNCONSTITUTIONAL and strike DISCRIMINATION laws down. FREEDOM OF RELIGION is VIOLATING both HUMAN RIGHTS and CIVIL RIGHTS. I know disgusting “christians” do not care about those, but guess what ? The rights you are violating are your own. There is a civil right that says no one can DISCRIMINATE versus sex, race, creed, financial accounts, religion, and sexual orientation.

      2 tellthetruth, TELL THE TRUTH ! When you get a “WOODY”, are you in control of it? I mean, do you TELL yourself to get a “WOODY” or does it just happen without you even winking at it ? Like any guy I can’t tell myself to “BE AROUSED”. If I was that powerful, I would not be here on this planet. I guarantee that. I can put myself in situations where arousal is predictable, and so can you ( a strip club, porn movie …etc…), yet I cannot “whistle” at it and say “up boy!” So actually that LOGICALLY leads to the fact that NO ONE CHOOSES who they are ATTRACTED too. If you don’t believe me, find the best looking guy and have sex with him. I imagine you are male. Go ahead, try. It probably, for you, doesn’t work that way. And being a GAY MAN, I can’t CHOOSE to have sex with a woman. Most people with HATRED ruling their loins today, seams to think GAY people miraculously “turn themselves on to ANYTHING sexual”. NOT TRUE. I have no clue where they get their facts. Even in a GAY bar on Saturday night, it’s NOT ALL ABOUT SEX. And why are you in my life and my bedroom ? How do you know what goes on ? PEEPING through your neighbor’s curtain ? And justifying your crime because two gay men are having a romantic interlude in the privacy of their own house ? PEEPER! Where is your license to sell tickets and popcorn ? Or is it a FETISH ? DEVIANT !

      Attacking “god’s” people ? If I only had the time. The only thing worth attacking are the people talking out of turn. Screaming “religion” to anyone in the public domain is disgusting. I attribute it to SWEARING. It’s as inappropriate as me saying ” *&!K”. Wasn’t I nice to you . I didn’t say something I knew was going to offend you. But the “religious” do it all the time to people who do not want to be bothered by “religion” and the HOPES that you will suddenly make them “BELIEVE”. It’s ANNOYING !!! And it is uncomfortable, like a girl in a bar and a guy “squelching” all over her. IT”S UNCOMFORTABLE. Attribute that to meanness. “Throwing us into HELL ?” Who says ? And who is man enough to do it ? An INVISIBLE SKY FAIRY WHO IS VERY MUCH A COWARD ? Where is his signature ? To prove he exists ? You make others PROVE things EVERYDAY. Why do you not require that of your IMAGINARY SKY FAIRY ? The one person I’d be wanting to know EVERYTHING about, and “christians” have NO CLUE !!!! That’s AMAZING !!!!

      REPENT ? Naw. My FREE WILL tells your “religion” to get behind the doors of the churches where it belongs. And STOP screwing my government with your PATHETIC “religious liberty”. You give the true meaning of it a bad definition.

      • Usa says:

        Strahd VonZarovich preaching on hatred while spewing hate. Typical liberal.

      • Joe Drake says:

        Actually there is zero about Freedom from religion. There is the separation of Church and state but that actually says the state will not sponsor a religion of its own. So if you can show me the part of the first amendment that says there is any freedom from religion then please show me.

        Now I don’t really agree with discriminating against people but the 1st clearly says no prohibiting the FREE EXERCISE thereof. You may not like it but the bible has text calling LGBT sex a sin. So….
        Private small groups businesses would seem to have the rights to be bigots. Just like the whole rest of the community has the right to not do business with those businesses.

        Amendment I. Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

      • Becks says:

        Make shorter posts and more sense if you actually want someone to read your nonsense.

    • Malcolm says:

      “We” do NOT all ‘know’ that. Largely because it isn’t true. At best, that’s a minority loose interpretation of biblical and pseudo-biblical teachings; at worst it’s very un-Godlike bigotry of a sort roundly and specifically condemned.

      What even *is* a “homo-nazi”?

      • James Armato says:

        Dude! You need to calm down! People like you prove that those who scream for tolerance the loudest are the most intolerant. People like you who claim to be against hate and bigotry are the most hateful and bigoted. So no one chooses who they are attracted to? So do I take it then, that you also support pedophiles? Gay men do have a history of that! Look at Allen Ginsberg and Harvey Milk!

        And what people like you don’t get is that this bill is NOT anti-gay. You have every right in the world to be as gay as you want to be. You do not, however, have the right to force others to condone, endorse, or celebrate it. If you reject Christianity, that is your choice. But you do not, however, have the right to force Christians to violate their faith by forcing them to celebrate, endorse, or condone your deviant lifestyle. You claim to hate having “religion” forced on you, but you seem fine with forcing your views on others–especially Christians. I also find it interesting that gays only target Christian owned businesses. None of them would ever dare target a Muslim owned business and force them to service a gay wedding. I wonder why!

  10. Javro says:

    Double standard. So Georgia wants to lump itself in with all the mentioned states that are defined by their intolerance and breach of human rights?

  11. intownWriter says:

    Can we just focus on what a abomination this law would be if it’s successfully implemented here in Georgia, please? From both the human rights and economic repercussions, *this* legislation needs to be vetoed, and those of us here in Georgia fighting for that veto are COUNTING on additional support from outside the state, especially from national media.
    This kind of piece is not helpful. Sure Hollywood d0es business in worse places, but Georgia’s TV and film production is exploding, and the economic threat to the state is a powerful argument to our *very* GOP governor to kill it here and now through his veto.
    Very disappointed to see this piece in Variety. VERY disappointed.

    • IntownWriter says:

      Dear Moderator: How does one UNSUBSCRIBE from getting comments? Please tell me. The response here to this analysis has been entirely disheartening.

  12. Bugger butt says:

    So what? Let them pass the bill. Disney will still be doing business there maybe not as much but enough for everyone to be happy. I like that this article talks about the other countries and their laws as if Hollywood matters in those countries as much as we believe they do here in USA.

  13. jason colbert says:

    So Disney, hires 3rd world cheap tech labor, lays off thousands of fully qualified AMERICAN workers, but Georgia passing a Law is over the Line? WTF Disney. Last time i checked, it was Freedom of Religion and NOT Freedom from Religion…
    Disney should be ashamed of its process to bring down the American work force, this from a company that just made boat loads of money from the Star Wars movie and merchandise…

    • go georgia go says:

      Gay-rights activists believe it is “freedom of religion as long as your religious views are acceptable to us.” There has never been a more fascistic force in this nation than the “gay rights” movement.

  14. go georgia go says:

    Another fake controversy. Why are liberals, and gay rights activists specifically, so intolerant of views that they don’t like? Persecuting religious people because they don’t agree with your political views will not work in the end. It will backfire. It always does. Georgia’s laws should be decided by people in Georgia and not left wing bullies from places like California and New York.

    • Why are the “religious” PERSECUTING GAY PEOPLE ? I’m not BULLYING anyone. You would be mad as HORNET if your RIGHTS were NEVER given! GAY PEOPLE have been paying 100% of their taxes and for what ? So ANYONE can DISCRIMINATE against them ? You have read the bill of rights, and the part about NOT DISCRIMINATING versus sex, creed, sexual orientation, finances,religion….etc Everything applies for you EXCEPT sexual orientation, right ? Shall we do that to you ? Take away your rights that your taxes are supposed to entitle you too. Would you like it ?

      But wait ! If you got rid of the “HOMOS” you would have no one to LEGALLY DISCRIMINATE against. And I’m sure someone like you would NEVER stand for that. I hope you are NOT a JEW, a NEGRO, or a “BITCH”.

      • joi karen says:

        @Strahd VonZarovich, At first, I was all FOR you and everything you said until you got up to the end. And, although I know what you are trying to say, I was still pissed off with you because I am a Jew, a Negro AND a bitch.

  15. LA Rover Boy says:

    Let’s not forget 20th Century Fox developing a them park in Malaysia. Their law provides up to 20-yr prison sentence for homosexual acts.

    This is but one of many Hollywood hypocrisies. Don’t get me start on DiCaprio’s Gulfstream flights around the world while crying the climate change blues.

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