Weinstein Co. Calls on Georgia Governor to Reject Anti-Gay Bill

Harvey Weinstein Getty-H 2016
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Harvey Weinstein's company said it will move an upcoming film about Richard Pryor out of the state if the governor signs the bill.

The Weinstein Co. has joined a chorus of entertainment industry companies that are calling on Georgia's governor, Nathan Deal, to reject anti-gay legislation in his state. The company also said it will boycott the state — where it is currently planning to film a currently untitled biopic about Richard Pryor to be directed by Lee Daniels — if the bill is signed into law.

"The Weinstein Co. will not stand behind sanctioning the discrimination of‎ LGBT people or any American," a statement from a spokesperson read on Thursday. "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."

Daniels is also among more than 30 prominent Hollywood filmmakers who have separately lent their names to a letter asking the governor to veto the legislation and threatening to boycott the state if he does not.

Such entertainment companies as Disney, Time Warner, Viacom and AMC Networks have also 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 people.

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, the Atlanta Falcons and the 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 on 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, because major corporations headquartered in Atlanta — Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS and Cox Enterprises — have opposed it, joining a business coalition called Georgia Prospers. It stated that "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 Assn. 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 (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 films, TV movies and series. Among them were such pics as Miracles From Heaven and Allegiant and upcoming film Captain America: Civil War as well as TV series that include AMC's The Walking Dead, The CW's The Vampire Diaries and Fox's Sleepy Hollow.


More to come.