×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Hollywood Hits Back at Georgia Anti-LGBTQ Adoption Bill

Georgia has become a favorite destination for movies and shows looking for generous tax incentives, top-of-the-line sound stages, and veteran crews. “The Hunger Games,” “The Walking Dead,” “Black Panther,” and “Stranger Things” are just a few of the big-budget productions that have decamped for the Peach State in recent years. All that activity has paid off, with studies estimating that the film industry provided $9.5 billion in economic activity in the state during 2017.

But a new Georgia Senate bill that would make it legal for taxpayer-funded adoption agencies and foster care providers to choose not to work with same-sex couples is putting a strain on those ties. Opponents of the legislation believe it is bigoted, while its backers and supporters say that it is a matter of religious freedom.

Studios are declining to comment, but actors, producers, and showrunners are slamming the legislation and urging companies to pull productions from Georgia, if the bill passes the Georgia House of Representatives and gets signed into law.

Ben Wexler, a writer and producer on “The Grinder” and “Arrested Development,” took to Twitter to vent his outrage, writing, “To my fellow showrunners: if this dumb bill becomes law, let’s be done filming television shows in Georgia.”

His tweet was liked by 64,000 people and shared by 17,000. His remarks were retweeted by Dustin Lance Black and Billy Eichner. Activist groups have also sounded the alarm. Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of GLAAD, labeled the bill “a dangerous step backward.”

“This bill is not about freedom of religion, which is one of our nation’s fundamental values, but rather about imposing one’s personal religious beliefs on others to discriminate against loving foster or adoptive parents, simply because of their identity, and deny services to LGBTQ youth,” Ellis said.

Alyssa Milano, the star of Netflix’s “Insatiable,” which is currently shooting in Atlanta, expressed optimism that the entertainment industry would band together if the bill gains traction.

“If it does pass in the House of Representatives and if the Governor signs the bill, I think the film and entertainment industry will take a strong stand and will pack up and leave the state of Georgia,” said Milano. “There is just no tolerance for discrimination of any kind.”

In an interview with Variety, the bill’s author, Republican Sen. William Ligon, argued that the legislation isn’t intended to discriminate against gay couples. He said that it will expand the number of organizations who can find homes for foster children.

“What we’ve seen is the children are being failed by the state because some of these organizations are being forced to choose in some places between violating the tenants of their faith and going out of business,” Ligon said. “It’s hard to violate the thing that motivates you to do this service.”

Ligon argued that critics of the legislation are distorting its intentions.

“What [critics] fail to recognize is there’s a genuine need for children in difficult circumstances to find a permanent home,” he said. “This bill does not say that a gay couple cannot adopt a child or a gay agency cannot contract with the state. Those door’s open and available to many children in foster homes.”

The Georgia Chamber of Commerce, the Metro Atlanta Chamber, and corporations with local ties such as Coca-Cola and Delta have been lobbying the Georgia government to kill the bill, arguing that the legislation will discourage companies from doing business in the state.

“Legislation that sanctions discrimination and limits options for children in need of a permanent home takes us further away from our goal of attracting investments that improve the lives of Georgia families,” said Katie Kirkpatrick, chief policy officer at Metro Atlanta Chamber. “We accomplish that goal by focusing on issues that improve workforce development, education and transportation.”

Publicly, Hollywood studios have stayed silent, with many believing that speaking out could backfire and galvanize social conservatives in Georgia. Moreover, studio sources tell Variety they are hopeful that the legislation will not become law, avoiding a potential crisis. They may be right.

“It’s probably more popular in the state senate than the state house,” said Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia. “And it’s not popular with the governor, so the governor could veto it also.”

Gov. Nathan Deal, a Republican, has not signaled opposition to the bill. But Deal last year vetoed a controversial religious-liberties bill in the face of boycott threats.

Deal has also aggressively cultivated film and TV production in the state, and could see much of his work to that end undone if a bill were to pass.

“I think for this governor, he would view anything which made the state less attractive for that industry as being a step back on what he’s achieved,” Bullock said.

And although a two-thirds majority vote from the state senate could override Deal’s veto, a quirk of Georgia law gives Deal ultimate power over the bill’s fate. According to the state constitution, Deal can wait until after the legislative session ends to issue his veto, denying the Senate an opportunity to override.

Even as they declined comment, Hollywood studios referred Variety to the Motion Picture Association of America. The industry trade organization is running point on the adoption controversy for the companies and expressed confidence that Ligon’s bill will never become law.

“As we saw in the legislature last year, we are confident that Georgia will not enact any kind of legislation that would permit discrimination against any individual,” said Vans Stevenson, MPAA senior vice president of state government affairs.

Updated: 12:00 EST 02/28/18.

More Film

  • MGM logo

    MGM Hires Robert Marick to Expand Consumer Products

    Metro Goldwyn Mayer has hired industry veteran Robert Marick as executive VP of global consumer products and experiences. In his new role, Marick is responsible for overseeing the expansion of MGM’s traditional merchandise, interactive and consumer products business. He’s also developing a global strategy with a focus on core consumer products licensing, digital and gaming, [...]

  • Robert Iger and Rupert Murdochcredit: Disney

    Wall Street Applauds as Disney Nears Finish Line on Fox Acquisition

    Wall Street is rooting for Disney as the media giant reaches the finish line this week in its 15-month quest to acquire most of Rupert Murdoch’s film and TV empire. Fox shareholders, on the other hand, are being a little more cautious. Disney is poised to close the $71.3 billion deal that took many twists [...]

  • Personal Tales From Hong Kong, China

    Personal Tales From Hong Kong and China Among the Asia Film Financing Forum Projects

    A brace of personal tales from China and Hong Kong are among the 23 projects vying for attention at the 17th Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum. Liu Miaomiao is a rare female ethnic Hui Muslim filmmaker. She came to international prominence with 1993’s “Chatterbox” that won the President of the Italian Senate’s Gold Medal [...]

  • Josie Ho Makes 2019 the Year

    Josie Ho Makes 2019 the Year She Takes Risks in Her Film Choices

    Josie Ho vows to master the art of calculated risk in the year 2019. As an actress and film producer, she is conscious of the choices of projects she makes: appearing in the new film by Japanese hotshot director Shinichiro Ueda, producing a new documentary feature while developing some 10 titles in the pipeline of [...]

  • FilMart: Big Data, Content Key to

    FilMart: Big Data, Content Key to iQIYI's Online Ambitions

    Tech and data play a huge role for iQIYI, China’s second-largest streaming platform, as a way to innovate and step out ahead of its competitors, iQIYI founder and CEO Yu Gong explained in a keynote speech Monday at FilMart. “We don’t see a lot of innovation-driven entertainment companies yet. We want to be the one,” [...]

  • Ted Sarandos and Thierry Fremaux'Okja' photocall,

    Despite Ongoing Peace Talks, Netflix Won't Have Any Movies at Cannes 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Although Netflix and the Cannes Film Festival continue quietly to negotiate a potential settlement to their differences, the streaming giant will be absent from the Croisette again this year with no film in or out of competition, Variety has learned. The ongoing talks between the two sides have been friendly, including a dinner in Los [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content