Culture

‘The Walking Dead’ Will Walk Out Of Georgia If Anti-LGBT Law Passes

CREDIT: Gene Page/AMC

If Georgia passes an anti-gay “religious liberty” bill on May 3, the state stands to lose billions of dollars in revenue. Not just because of the loss of extravagant, amazing gay weddings — although, that too — but because a fleet of major Hollywood players have joined the Walt Disney Co. and its Marvel Studios film unit in threatening to boycott Georgia should the bill be signed into law.

As of Friday, all of the following companies have spoken out against the bill: Viacom, 21st Century Fox, Lionsgate, CBS, Starz, AMC Networks (megahit The Walking Dead is currently filmed in Georgia), Netflix, Time Warner, CBS, The Weinstein Company, Sony, Comcast/NBCUniversal, MGM, STX Entertainment, and Open Road Films.

The legislation before Gov. Nathan Deal (R) is House Bill 757. It would prevent individuals from being forced to perform or attend same-sex weddings (if you’re curious, yes, that is a right already guaranteed by the First Amendment; no one can make you attend a wedding, be it gay, straight, or dog); allow faith-based groups, including churches and religious schools, to refuse employment and service to anyone who violates the group’s religious beliefs; and permit those groups to deny employment to anyone “whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”

Most of the statements released by these companies leave some wiggle room as far as follow-through is concerned; it's the rare company in Hollywood that will actually use the word "boycott" when such phenomenal tax incentives are on the table. Disney said they "will plan to take their business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law," though, and on Thursday, Netflix announced that, though the company just shot two films and a series (The Do-Over, True Memoirs of an International Assassin, and Stranger Things) in the state of Georgia "and had planned on filming two series there in the coming months, should any legislation allowing discriminatory practice be signed into state law, we will move our productions elsewhere."

Some of the strongest language came from The Weinstein Company on Thursday; the company threatened to move a Lee Daniels film on Richard Pryor, currently slated to shoot in Georgia, outside of the state. "The Weinstein Co. will not stand behind sanctioning the discrimination of‎ LGBT people or any American," the statement read. "We have plans in place to begin filming Lee Daniels' new film in Georgia later this year but will move the production if this unlawful bill is enacted. We hope Governor Deal will veto bill H.B. 757 and not allow sanctioned bigotry to become law in Georgia."

Viacom -- parent company of Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV, Spike, VH1, and Paramount -- issued a statement on Wednesday, emphasizing both how "proud" the company is "to champion diversity and acceptance" and "urg[ing] Governor Deal to continue to resist and reject the patently discriminatory laws being proposed." AMC also avoided the b-word, saying instead that "AMC Networks believes that discrimination of any kind is reprehensible. We applaud Governor Deal's leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well."

On Thursday, CBS, Time Warner, Lionsgate, Starz, and 21st Century Fox chimed in. A 21st Century Fox spokesperson said the company would "join the growing coalition of businesses in asking Governor Deal to veto this bill," while Starz, which is shooting the third season of Survivor's Remorse in Georgia as you read this, released a statement saying that the "inclusionary company... strongly opposes discrimination in any form, against anyone. As a proud production partner in Georgia for several years, we urge Governor Deal to show the same leadership he has in the past and reject this divisive legislation."

Lionsgate took a similar angle as 21st Century Fox, using its statement to "urge the Governor of Georgia to veto the deplorable and regressive legislation (House Bill 757) that has been sent to him. We take pride in our relationship with the people of Georgia and want to ensure that we can continue to offer our employees and talent there a working environment consistent with our policies and values."

In the CBS statement, the company deplored "the discriminatory language in Georgia’s proposed religious liberty bill conflicts with these core ethics and value" and (are you sensing a theme here?) went on to "call on Governor Deal to exercise his veto power." A spokesman from Sony called the bill "anathema to our studio and to all those who value diversity and inclusion" and said the company would "strongly urge Governor Deal to exercise his veto." MGM did the same, adding that "our sincere hope is the state repudiates this hateful and bigoted legislation."

Comcast NBCUniversal, which said that they'd give a statement sometime between noon and four and then didn't even show up until, like, 8:00 at night, made no threats but simply "joined the voices" asking Deal to act against the law.

Time Warner announced Thursday that its members "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. All of our divisions — HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner — have business interests in Georgia but none more than Turner, an active participant in the Georgia Prospers campaign, a coalition of business leaders committed to a Georgia that welcomes all people. Georgia bill H.B. 757 is in contradiction to this campaign, to the values we hold dear, and to the type of workplace we guarantee to our employees. We urge Governor Deal to exercise his veto."

While touted as a "religious liberty" bill by supporters, the discriminatory language has sparked outrage among hundreds of companies that do business in Georgia, including Atlanta-based Coca-Cola and Home Depot. The NFL issued a statement last week that, while not committing to a boycott outright, invoked strong language to suggest a state that embraced such anti-LGBT legislation could say goodbye to any hopes of hosting the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl, as Falcons Stadium, set to open in 2017, is gunning to do.

Gov. Deal has until May 3 to decide whether or not to sign the measure into law.