As Georgia Governor Nathan Deal ponders a religious-liberty bill, several companies, and now the film industry, have threatened to withdraw their business if the bill becomes a law. The Washington Post explains the purpose of the bill (H.B. 757), on the surface:
The bill protects religious leaders from being forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies and individuals from being forced to attend such events. It also allows faith-based organizations to deny use of their facilities for events they find "objectionable" and exempts them from having to hire or retain any employee whose religious beliefs or practices differ from those of the organization.
However, people are concerned that the measure is discriminatory. According to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC),
The bill adds a so-called "Religious Freedom Restoration Act" (RFRA), as well as retains and broadens discriminatory provisions that give explicit cover to taxpayer-funded religious organizations choosing to discriminate. While falsely framed as prohibiting the state government from making funding or tax status decisions based on an organization's religious views, in reality it opens the door to discrimination in social services and employment against a wide range of Georgians. The RFRA and other provisions could result in a range of harms. Taxpayer-funded adoption and foster care agencies could refuse to place children in desperate need of loving and caring homes with LGBT couples. Homeless shelters could turn away unwed couples and their families. Food pantries could turn away people of other faiths or even engage in race discrimination. Drug counseling centers could refuse to hire a qualified LGBT therapist.
Delta, Coca-Cola, Home Depot, Marriott, and Google, are among those urging Gov. Deal to veto the bill. Disney, including its subsidiary Marvel, wrote in a statement, "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." AMC Networks has expressed similar sentiment.
The revenue loss could hurt the state's economy. Georgia is the third most popular state for feature films, after California and New York. A letter signed by actors, writers, producers, and others working in the industry echoed the companies' concerns:
Dear Gov. 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.
- How persuasive is the letter from the Hollywood constituencies?
- What should Gov. Deal do? Either way, how should he communicate his decision?
- Do you find the bill potentially discriminatory? How does the language affect your reaction?