The state of Georgia might lose its status as one of the fastest growing production hubs in the country, along with its highest revenue generating local industry, if it proceeds to turn a pending so-called religious liberty bill into law.
Marvel Studios and its parent company, The Walt Disney Co., drew a line in sand on Wednesday, announcing they will no longer shoot their blockbusters in the Peach State if Gov. Nathan Deal signs the Free Exercise Protection Act currently on his desk.
The controversial HB 757 bill not only gives all individuals the legal right to choose “to attend or not attend” any wedding, but it also makes it illegal to force clergy to perform the same-sex wedding ceremonies. Moreover, if passed, the law would allow faith-based groups to deny services or fire an employee based on their sexual orientation.
“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,” said a Disney representative.
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Enjoying Georgia’s lucrative tax incentives, Marvel is currently filming its highly anticipated “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” at Pinewood Studios just outside Atlanta. Last year, the media giant also shot “Ant-Man” and “Captain America: Civil War” at the same venue.
If Disney does remain true to its word and pulls its superhero business out of the state, Georgia is going to face a huge financial and reputation setback.
“The rest of the industry has been relatively silent thus far,” said Joseph Chianese, executive vice president of EP Financial Solutions, a production incentive consultant. “Disney being the first and strongest voice I believe is going to have a rippling effect. I'm proud and happy that Disney was the first — they are the 800-pound gorilla.”
While Disney and Marvel are so far the only two entertainment giants to throw their weight against the discriminatory bill, other corporations, like AMC ("The Walking Dead"), the MPAA, the Human Rights Campaign, Coke, Home Depot and even Georgia's own Falcons and Braves have stated their disapproval of the bill.
“It’s appalling that anti-LGBT activists in Georgia are trying to pass legislation creating an explicit right to discriminate against LGBT Americans,” said Chad Griffin, the president of Human Rights Campaign. “We urge other studios, major corporations, and fair-minded Georgians to continue speaking out and urging Gov. Deal to veto this heinous piece of legislation sitting on his desk.”
Deal has until May 3 to either sign or veto the bill.
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