Walt Disney Co. and its Marvel Studios film unit are threatening to boycott the state of Georgia.
If Gov. Nathan Deal (R) signs an anti-gay religious liberty bill into law, Mickey Mouse and all his buddies will hightail out of there, bringing potentially billions of dollars with them. The legislation in question is House Bill 757 which would (1) prevent people from having to perform or attend same-sex marriages (2) permit faith-based groups like churches and religious schools to refuse service and employment to individuals if serving said people violated the group’s religious beliefs and (3) allow those same organizations to deny employment to individuals “whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”
Georgia has stellar tax incentives and, as a result, has become a hot spot for the film industry. Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy 2 is currently in production at Pinewood Studios near Atlanta, where Captain America: Civil War was shot last summer. Marvel’s Ant-Man was also shot in Georgia. A Disney spokesman said Wednesday that “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.”
The law might be a hit with the state’s general assembly, which voted in favor of the bill just last week. But Disney is just the latest in a string of high-profile — and high-profit — companies to threaten to abandon Georgia if the anti-gay measure becomes law. (Marvel is owned by Disney and got a shoutout in the official statement, but all Disney units, including ABC Studios and Disney Studios, are part of the deal.) To get a sense of just how big an impact the film and television industry has on Georgia’s economy, consider this, from The Hollywood Reporter: During the 2015 fiscal year, film and TV productions spent over $1.7 billion straight into Georgia, generating $6 billion in economic impact, a record amount.
Hundreds of businesses have spoken out against the bill, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and Home Depot. Earlier this month, the NFL issued a statement that described NFL policies as “emphasiz[ing] tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard” and went on to say that “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.” The language still leaves loopholes big enough to chuck a quarterback through, but there is the suggestion that, should the bill pass, the NFL will not consider Falcons Stadium, set to open in 2017 and in contention to host the Super Bowl in 2019 or 2020, as a site for its biggest game of the year. A trio of other Atlanta teams — the Braves, Falcons, and Hawks — have opposed the bill as well.
On the same day as the NFL's proclamation, Apple released a more impassioned statement of its own: "Our stores and our company are open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. We urge Gov. Deal to veto the discriminatory legislation headed to his desk and send a clear message that Georgia’s future is one of inclusion, diversity and continued prosperity."
The mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reem, has warned that the bill will bring "terrible harm" to business in his city: "I can’t express the amount of damage that is being done to Atlanta and Georgia’s reputation as the business center and cultural center of the Southeast." His office later released an official statement on the matter, saying the bill "is unprecedented in that it codifies employment discrimination and other types of discrimination as a ‘right’" and "will irreparably damage our economy."
As critics have already noted, the bill could be used to discriminate against same-sex couples, not to mention some of the bill just doubles down unnecessarily on provisions already guaranteed by the First Amendment. Personal exceptions aside — like, if your mom makes you go to your brother's gay wedding because he went to your wedding and it's the right thing to do so just stop whining about it, your bridesmaid's dress is fine, honestly, she's seen worse — you are not, in fact, ever required to attend any kind of wedding. Not even a gay one! The Constitution respects your right to only attend weddings with open bars.