Disney Threatens to Boycott Georgia over Religious Freedom Bill

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Disney and its Marvel Studios subsidiary have threatened to boycott the state of Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal does not veto a religious freedom bill that passed the state legislature last week.

A Disney spokesman said Monday that the company would no longer film productions in the Peach State if the bill, which the company characterized as “anti-gay discrimination,” becomes law.

“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,” a spokesman’s statement said, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Georgia has emerged as one of the top shooting locations for Hollywood studios over the past several years, including for Disney/Marvel, which filmed Ant-Man, Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 in the state. According to the state of Georgia, nearly 250 films and television shows lensed in the state last year, contributing $1.7 billion in spending and $6 billion in economic impact.

The production of the superhero film Ant-Man alone reportedly employed 3,579 Georgians and spent $106 million in the state. Georgia offers expansive film tax credits — reportedly up to 30 percent in some cases — making it attractive for studios looking to shave tens of millions of dollars off the costs of big-budget tentpole films.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has until May 3 to decide whether to veto or pass HB 757, the legislation officially known as the Free Exercise Protection Act. The bill would allow faith-based organizations to deny services to anyone if serving him or her violates their “sincerely held religious beliefs.” It would also require government to provide a “compelling” reason to impede residents’ free exercise of religion. The “compromise” version of the bill, which passed both chambers of the state legislature last week, also includes a provision that bars all state and federally prohibited discrimination.

Last week, the president of LGBT advocacy organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC) urged major Hollywood production studios to boycott Georgia over the bill.

“It’s un-American,” HRC President Chad Griffin told attendees at the group’s annual gala in Los Angeles. “It’s an affront on all the values Hollywood prides itself on. And 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.”

On Friday, the National Football League warned that passage of the bill would factor into the league’s decision on where to host future Super Bowl games.

“NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement. “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.”

Dozens of major corporations, including those headquartered in Georgia, like UPS and Coca-Cola, have formed the Georgia Prospers business coalition in opposition to the bill.

“We believe that in order 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 group’s website states.


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