Update March 28, 7:30 p.m.: Georgia Governor Nathan Deal announced today that he would veto bill HB 757. The bill faced widespread denunciation from human rights groups, media organizations, and sports leagues for its allowance for discrimination on faith-based grounds. The governor released a transcript of his remarks at a news conference earlier Monday. We’ve excerpted some relevant paragraphs below. “Therefore, as I have examined the protections this bill seeks to provide to religious organizations and people of faith I can find no examples that any of the things this bill seeks to protect us against have ever occurred in Georgia. It is also apparent that the cases being cited from other states occurred because those state had passed statutes that specifically protected their citizens from adverse actions based on their sexual orientation. Georgia has no such statutes. “HB 757 appeared in several forms during the recent session of the Georgia General Assembly. I had no objection to the 'Pastor Protection Act' that was passed by the House of Representatives. The other versions of the bill, however, contained language that could give rise to state-sanctioned discrimination. I did have problems with that and made my concerns known as did many other individuals and organizations, including some within the faith-based community.” The ruling is a major one in terms of advancing equality and in terms of keeping Georgia’s media economy afloat.
Update March 24, 9:30 p.m.: More companies and celebrities have come forward to condemn Georgia’s HB 757. Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, Lionsgate, and the Weinstein Company have all issued statements about the bill. Anne Hathaway, Lee Daniels, Ryan Murphy, Julianne Moore, Diablo Cody, and more than two dozen others signed this open letter from the Human Rights Commission denouncing the bill and threatening to pull production from the state. “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 reads in part. Time Warner, whose subsidiary Turner is a major broadcaster based out of Atlanta, called for a veto. “At Time Warner, diversity in all its forms is core to our value system and to the success of our business. We strongly oppose the discriminatory language and intent of Georgia’s pending religious liberty bill, which clearly violates the values and principles of inclusion and the ability of all people to live and work free from discrimination. “All of our divisions – HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner – have business interests in Georgia, but none more than Turner, an active participant in the Georgia Prospers campaign, a coalition of business leaders committed to a Georgia that welcomes all people. Georgia bill HB 757 is in contradiction to this campaign, to the values we hold dear, and to the type of workplace we guarantee to our employees. We urge Governor Deal to exercise his veto.” The Weinstein Company threatened to move the production of Lee Daniels’ upcoming Richard Pryor biopic. “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.” 21st Century Fox also called for a veto. “On behalf of 21st Century Fox’s many creative partners and colleagues who choose to film their projects in the beautiful state of Georgia, we join the growing coalition of businesses in asking Governor Deal to veto this bill.” Lionsgate voiced concern that Georgia’s bill ran contrary to their company values. “Lionsgate has deep roots in the State of Georgia in our film, television and location-based entertainment businesses. As a Company committed to diversity, inclusiveness and tolerance, we urge the Governor of Georgia to veto the deplorable and regressive legislation (House Bill 757) that has been sent to him. We take pride in our relationship with the people of Georgia and want to ensure that we can continue to offer our employees and talent there a working environment consistent with our policies and values.”
Original story, published at 11 p.m. EST on March 23, follows.
Disney, Viacom, and AMC joined forces in denouncing, to varying degrees, an anti-LGBTQ bill that Georgia governor Nathan Deal could sign into law. The bill, properly called the Free Exercise Protection Act, or HB 757, would allow faith-based groups to deny “social, educational or charitable services” to customers if they feel that doing so would be counter to their religious beliefs. Such organizations would also be legally allowed to reject otherwise-qualified job applicants on the criteria of religious beliefs, The New York Times writes. Governor Deal has until May 3 to decide on the fate of the bill. Georgia has been a favorite of media companies because of the lucrative tax breaks offered to productions that take place there. Should he fail to veto the bill, Disney and Marvel, its wholly owned subsidiary, have threatened to pull production from the state. The companies recently filmed Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in Georgia. "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 Disney spokesman told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday. Viacom wouldn’t go so far as to promise to remove production, but did denounce the law. "Viacom is proud to champion diversity and acceptance, which are core values of our company," a company spokesperson told The Hollywood Reporter. "We have enjoyed doing business in Georgia for many years and we urge Governor Deal to continue to resist and reject the patently discriminatory laws being proposed.” AMC, which films The Walking Dead in the state, gave credit to Governor Deal for his previous action, and joined their fellow companies in denouncing the legislation. “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,” the company told Refinery29. Chad Griffin, Human Rights Campaign president, threw his support behind the media companies. “We applaud Disney and Marvel for standing up for fairness and equality by sending a strong warning to Governor Deal,” Griffin said. “It’s appalling that anti-LGBT activists in Georgia are trying to pass legislation creating an explicit right to discriminate against LGBT Americans. We urge other studios, major corporations, and fair-minded Georgians to continue speaking out and urging Gov. Deal to veto this heinous piece of legislation sitting on his desk.” The NFL has also said it will not host a Super Bowl in Atlanta should the bill pass. Governor Deal has yet to respond to Refinery29's request for comment.