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Hollywood could be forced to decide whether or not to boycott Georgia, at the expense of its own pocketbook, if that state’s governor signs a controversial religious liberty bill passed last week by the Georgia legislature that critics contend amounts to anti-gay legislation.
Urging Hollywood to speak out against the bill even before Gov. Nathan Deal decides whether or not to sign it, Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, appearing at an HRC fundraising dinner in Los Angeles on Saturday night, asked filmmakers to boycott the state if the bill becomes law.
“I know we have many entertainment industry leaders in the room tonight,” said Griffin. “Like other states, Georgia offers tax incentives for TV and film productions, and as a result, the entertainment industry has a huge economic footprint in the state. But if this bill is signed into law, your employees, your contractors — all those working on your production are at risk of state-sanctioned discrimination. That is wrong. It’s un-American. It’s an affront on all the values Hollywood prides itself on.”
He continued: “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.”
While no Hollywood figures or organizations have yet addressed the pending legislation, the National Football League warned on March 18 that if the bill is enacted into law, it could affect the league’s decision to hold either the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl in Atlanta, which is currently one of the finalists to host the games. The Atlanta Braves, Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta Hawks have also joined the list of those opposing the bill.
“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or any other improper standard,” said league spokesman Brian McCarthy. “Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.”
The bill, officially titled the Free Exercise Protection Act, passed the Georgia legislature on March 17 after a contentious two-year battle. The bill says no minister can be forced to perform a same-sex marriage and no individual can be force to attend one — provisions, which critics point out, are already guaranteed by the First Amendment. It then goes on to say no faith-based organization “shall be required to provide social, educational or charitable services that violate such faith-based organizations sincerely held religious belief” and that such organizations can’t be forced to “hire or retain as an employee any person whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organizations sincerely held religious belief.” And it further says government can’t “substantially burden” a person’s exercise of religion unless it involves “a compelling government interest” — thereby extending its protections to individuals.
and spiraling out of control,” says one box-office analyst as the Shailene Woodley series shrinks rather than grows in its third installment.”]
According to the HRC, the bill “opens the door to discrimination in social services and employment against a wide range of Georgians.” The gay-rights group argues that taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies, homeless shelters and drug counseling centers would be free to discriminate against LGBT individuals and couples.
While the Republican governor criticized earlier versions of the bill, threatening to veto any measure that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith,” Deal said on March 18 that he was “pleasantly surprised” with the compromise version that was sent to his desk but has not yet indicated whether or not he intends to sign the bill and has until May 3 to decide.
The bill poses a dilemma for Gov. Deal, who is regarded as pro-business, since major corporations headquartered in Atlanta such as Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS and Cox Enterprises have opposed the bill, joining a business coalition called Georgia Prospers that has stated “for Georgia businesses to compete for top talent, we must have workplaces and communities that are diverse and welcoming for all people, no matter one’s race, sex, color, national origin, ethnicity, religion, age, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.”
The controversy also comes just as Georgia is trumpeting its success in attracting film and television productions to the state, which offers attractive tax credits of up to 30 percent.
On Feb. 22, the governor joined other Georgia officials in celebrating Film Day, at which it was reported that during fiscal year 2015, which ran from July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015, film and TV productions spent more than $1.7 billion directly in the state, which, in turn, generated a record $6 billion in economic impact.
During fiscal 2015, Georgia played host to 248 feature film, TV movies and series. Among them were such pics as the current Miracles From Heaven and Allegiant and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War and the Clint Eastwood/Tom Hanks drama Sully, as well as TV series including AMC’s The Walking Dead, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow.
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