Lee Daniels, Aaron Sorkin, Rob Reiner Join Campaign Against Georgia's Anti-Gay Legislation

Lee Daniels, Aaron Sorkin and Rob Reiner GETTY - H 2016
Michael Tran/FilmMagic; Samir Hussein/WireImage; Walter McBride/WireImage

More than 30 Hollywood filmmakers are urging Gov. Nathan Deal to veto the legislation.

More than 30 prominent Hollywood figures — including Aaron Sorkin, Lee Daniels, Rob Reiner, Anne Hathaway, Dustin Lance Black and Gus Van Sant — are vowing not work in Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal signs a bill that they say amounts to discriminatory anti-gay legislation.

In a letter, released Thursday by the Human Rights Campaign, they stated, “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."

Those who have signed on include Lucasfilm's Kathleen Kennedy, CAA's Bryan Lourd, producers Ryan Murphy, Greg Berlanti, John Goldwyn and Frank Marshall, and performers like Julianne Moore and Kristin Chenoweth.

The current campaign also brings together several of the individuals — HRC president Chad Griffin, Reiner, Black — who were instrumental in organizing and supporting The American Foundation for Equal Rights, which backed the successful legal effort to overturn Proposition 8 in California, paving the way for marriage equality in the state.

The filmmakers join such companies as Disney, Time Warner, Viacom, The Weinstein Co. and AMC Networks, which have called on the governor to veto the legislation passed last week by the Georgia Legislature.

The governor has until May 3 to decide whether or not to sign the bill, which is officially titled the Free Exercise Protection Act. While cast as a religious liberty bill that says ministers and pastors cannot be forced to conduct same-sex marriages, it also says faith-based organizations can't be forced to provide social, educational or charitable services that violate their religious beliefs and that the government can't "substantially burden" a person's exercise of religion unless it involves "a compelling government interest" — thereby extending protections to individuals. 

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.

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.

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.

The bill poses a dilemma for 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.”

Observed Vans Stevenson, senior vp state government affairs for the Motion Picture Association of America, "We are confident that Governor Deal will not allow a discriminatory bill to become law in Georgia."

Hollywood is a major contributor to the Georgia economy. 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 the past fiscal year, 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 upcoming films like Captain America: Civil War as well as TV series including AMC’s The Walking Dead, The CW’s The Vampire Diaries and Fox’s Sleepy Hollow.

The complete text of the filmmakers' letter follows.

Dear Governor Deal,

As leaders in the entertainment industry, we have deep concerns about H.B. 757, which would sanction discrimination against LGBT people and others in Georgia.

As you know, Atlanta is often referred to as the Hollywood of the South. During the last fiscal year, at least 248 films and television productions were shot in Georgia, adding at least $1.7 billion in direct spending to the state's economy. Additionally, the entertainment industry helped to bring more than 100 businesses to Georgia through relocation or expansion in the past fiscal year. Only two states — California and New York — have a larger entertainment industry footprint and both have statewide non-discrimination protections on the books. Unfortunately, Georgia not only lacks such protections, but could soon move from a bad situation to worse with H.B. 757.

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. We urge you to veto H.B. 757 and send a strong message that Georgia will not tolerate discrimination against citizens, employees and visitors to the state.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this urgent issue.

Ali Adler, Writer and Producer
Greg Berlanti, Writer and Producer
Matt Bomer, Actor & Simon Halls, Publicist
Dustin Lance Black, Screenwriter and Filmmaker
Bradley Bredeweg, Executive Producer and Showrunner
Kristin Chenoweth, Actress and Singer
Diablo Cody, Writer, Producer and Director
Bruce Cohen, Producer
Lee Daniels, Producer and Director
Dana Fox, Writer and Producer
John Goldwyn, Producer
James Gunn, Writer and Director
Anne Hathaway, Actress
Alan Hergott, Entertainment Attorney
Nina Jacobson, Producer
Dan Jinks, Producer
Kathy Kennedy, Producer
Zoe Kravitz, Actress
Bryan Lourd, Talent Agent
Seth MacFarlane, Producer and Filmmaker
Laurence Mark, Producer
Frank Marshall, Producer and Director
Neil Meron, Producer
Julianne Moore, Actress
Ryan Murphy, Producer
Peter Paige, Executive Producer and Showrunner
Rob Reiner, Actor, Director and Producer
Sarah Schechter, Producer
Adam Shankman, Director and Producer
Aaron Sorkin, Screenwriter and Producer
Marisa Tomei, Actress
Gus Van Sant, Producer and Director
Harvey Weinstein, Producer and Film Studio Executive
Craig Zadan, Producer and Director