Today it was announced that the Walt Disney Company – and by extension Marvel Studios – will basically boycott the state of Georgia should its “religious liberty” bill be made into law.
The bill, which Georgia legislators passed last week, gives faith-based organizations the right to refuse services and employment to those who violate their “sincerely held religious belief” (namely, people in the LGBTQIA+ community). It also protects religious officials who refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. The bill is pending before Georgia Governor Nathan Deal.
Disney has filmed several pictures in Georgia, including Captain America: Civil War (which comes out May 6th), and Guardians of the Galaxy 2 (which is currently filming in Pinewood Studios outside of Atlanta), taking advantage of the tax incentives that have recently turned Georgia into a production hub. However, according to Variety, Disney and Marvel fully intend to “take their business elsewhere”, should the governor sign the bill.
A spokesperson for Disney said:
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.
Disney is the first Hollywood studio to make such a statement, but it isn’t the only organization to do so. On Saturday, Human Rights Campaign president Chad Griffin urged studios to not commit to further productions in Georgia if Gov. Deal signs the bill. Griffin called the bill “state-sponsored discrimination” and “un-American”, saying that it was “an affront on all the values Hollywood prides itself on”. The MPAA made its opinion known Monday, and Apple and Salesforce have also come out against the bill.
Even the NFL has cautioned Georgia that its hopes for a Super Bowl in Atlanta (to be held in the new Atlanta Falcons stadium, which opens next year) could be in vain if they continue to support such legislation that does not meet league policies that “emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.”
Dragon Con, which has made Atlanta its home for 30 years, assured con-goers that they “will seek written assurances from all of our business partners that they will not participate in any discriminatory behavior on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other point of identification.” The organization has no intention of ever partnering with a sponsor that discrimates for any reason, adding, “Legislation that hurts one of us, hurts all of us.”
UPDATE 3/24/16 10:48 AM: Viacom and AMC Networks have joined in the conversation, urging Gov. Deal to reject the bill.
A spokesperson for AMC said:
As a company, AMC Networks believes that discrimination of any kind is reprehensible. We applaud Gov. [Nathan] Deal’s leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well.
Disney and Marvel are heavy hitters in Hollywood, to be sure, but it is AMC’s opposition to the anti-gay bill that may be the most decisive thing for Georgia and its governor. After all, The Walking Dead films outside of Atlanta and that’s – please excuse the pun – kind of a big deal.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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