Disney has managed to build out most of the Marvel Cinematic Universe within the southern environs of the state of Georgia, but some pending legislation in the Peach State now threatens to upend that cozy relationship. HB 757, otherwise known as the Free Exercise Protection Act, is a proposed “religious liberty” law that would allow “faith-based organizations and business owners to deny services to people” whose lifestyles—and, more specifically, marriages—are somehow in conflict with their religious beliefs.
The bill’s previous iteration sought this protection for religious officials, so they could decline performing marriage ceremonies for couples who don’t fit their narrow definition of matrimony, but it’s since been expanded to allow Georgia businesses to take the same discriminatory stance. The bill has passed the state House and Senate, and is now being reviewed by Governor Nathan Deal. But if the governor signs off, Disney and Marvel, who consider themselves “inclusive companies,” have indicated that they’ll take their movie business elsewhere, even if it means disrupting production on Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 and Avengers: Infinity War.
“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 and Marvel have been joined in their opposition by some pretty big names in the entertainment industry, including the NFL, Live Nation, and AMC Networks, which films The Walking Dead in and around Atlanta. Additionally, the Motion Picture Association Of American has spoken up to urge the Georgia governor against signing off on the bill, and Time Warner, which is the parent company of CNN, Warner Bros., and HBO, issued the following statement regarding the discriminatory proposed legislation:
“We strongly oppose the discriminatory language and intent of Georgia’s pending religious-liberty bill, which clearly violates the values and principles of inclusion and the ability of all people to live and work free from discrimination.”
Georgia’s been mighty generous with its tax incentives, and currently trails only California and New York as one of the primary production locations in the country. According to The Washington Post, the state reported nearly $2 billion in “in-state spending on film and television productions in the 2015 fiscal year,” which is why many critics of the bill have pointed out that its implementation would cause severe damage to the local economy. The Post also reports that several hundred corporations—including Fortune 500 companies like Verizon, Google, and Microsoft—have formed a coalition urging the governor not to sign the bill.
The Human Rights Campaign has actually called on all of Hollywood to boycott the state, should the legislation be passed. This open letter, which has been sent to Governor Deal, was signed by industry heavyweights including Harvey Weinstein, Rob Reiner, Greg Berlanti, Ryan Murphy, Julianne Moore, Lee Daniels, and Seth MacFarlane.