Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin urged studios and production companies to refuse to commit to any further productions in Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal does not veto a pending religious liberty bill.
Griffin, speaking at the Los Angeles HRC Gala on Saturday, said that “if this bill is signed into law, your employees, your contractors, all those working on your production are at risk of state-sponsored discrimination. That is wrong, it’s un-American. It’s an affront on all the values Hollywood prides itself on.”
With one of the country’s most generous incentive packages, Georgia has emerged as one of the top production centers in the U.S.
Noting the presence of many figures from entertainment at the HRC event, Griffin said, “You have the influence and the opportunity to not only defeat this bill, but to send a message that there are consequences to passing dangerous and hateful laws like this. And so tonight, we’re asking you to join us as we urge TV and film studios, directors and producers, to commit to locating no further productions in the state of Georgia if this bill becomes law.”
Georgia legislators passed the bill earlier this week. It protects religious officials from having to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, and would allow faith-based organizations to deny services or employment to those who violate their “sincerely held religious belief.”
Several weeks ago, Deal warned that he would reject any bill that he determined was legalized discrimination. But opponents say that the compromise reached this week will still permit discrimination against gays and lesbians.
On Friday, the NFL even warned that it would take such legislation into consideration when evaluating potential host cities for Super Bowl games. A number of corporations including Apple and Salesforce have come out against the bill.
As the bill moved through the legislature this year, it provoked some discussion in Georgia’s movie and TV production community over whether it could lead to companies shunning the state, as is what happened last year when Indiana passed a religious freedom bill. After companies threatened to cease doing business, the legislation was revised.
In addition to drawing a number of TV shows like “Vampire Diaries” and “The Walking Dead,” Georgia has become a production hub for mega-budget tentpole pictures. Marvel’s “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” is shooting at Pinewood Studios, and “Captain America: Civil War” shot there last summer.
By some estimates the state has moved into the No. 3 position for production, behind California and New York. According to the state’s Dept. of Economic Development, $1.7 billion was spent on production in fiscal 2015. In 2007, it had been $132.5 million.
Deal, who has been a big booster of the state’s film and TV tax credit, has not said whether he would sign the revised legislation, but told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that it would be a “difficult decision.”