Georgia may in real danger of losing a big chunk of change if Governor Nathan Deal signs into law a divisive piece of legislation that’s being derided as anti-LGBT. In the wake of yesterday’s announcement from the Walt Disney Company that any future shoots in the state would be moved if House Bill 757 is ratified, several high-profile studios in Georgia are following suit, and threatening to take their business elsewhere if the state passes the law.
On Thursday morning, The Weinstein Company became the latest production company to issue the threat, releasing a statement, and promising to join the boycott should the law pass.
“The Weinstein Company will not stand behind sanctioning the discrimination of LGBT people or any American,” the statement read. “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.”
If passed,Georgia House Bill 757, would make it illegal to compel “religious officials … to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion.” Colloquially dubbed the Free Exercise Protection Act or the Pastor Protection Act, supporters of the bill claim that the legislation is necessary to protect the rights of the state’s clergy. Critics of the bill, however, are calling HB 757 legally-sanctioned discrimination.
The protesters, it turns out, may have the muscle to kill the bill. Long known for its generous production incentives and tax breaks for film and television shoots, Georgia’s new bill implicates more than $1.7 billion in yearly income. The state is currently home to 31 film and TV shoots, including The Vampire Diaries, the upcoming Baywatch reboot, and The Walking Dead. A growing number of these lucrative shoots imply a willingness to leave the state if HB 757 becomes law.
All of this drama may be moot. Earlier this month, before studios made any statements, the Georgia governor spoke out against the bill, citing his Christian faith as a basis for his opposition. As Deal told reporters, “I don’t think that we have to have anything that allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.” During the same conversation, Deal also noted that it was kind of Jesus’s bag to reach out to those who are considered outcasts.
Wherever he lands on the issue, Deal is destined to aggravate some people. HB 757 passed through the Georgia House with very little opposition, which suggests that — should Deal veto the Pastor Protection Act — he may be looking at quite a political maelstrom in his own state.