The state of Georgia is one of the prime movie-making hubs in the United States, thanks to generous tax incentives and a thriving production industry in Atlanta. But a new bill pending before governor Nathan Deal could change that.
Last week Republican state lawmakers passed what they called a “religious liberty” bill, which would enable businesses to opt out of serving couples, gay or straight, or accommodating anti-discrimination laws if they cite “a sincerely held religious belief” (pdf) regarding marriage.
The bill has been criticized by LGBT-rights advocates and business interests, including Marvel Entertainment and its parent company, Disney.
“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,” a Disney spokesman said on Wednesday, according to Variety.
Marvel is currently filming Guardians of the Galaxy 2 at Pinewood Studios near Atlanta. Captain America: Civil War was shot there in the summer of 2015.
Other state legislatures have passed or attempted to pass similar items since the US Supreme Court ruled that same-sex couples have a fundamental right to marriage. Kansas governor Sam Brownback, a Republican, signed a similar bill into law on Tuesday (Mar. 22).
A bill in Missouri was filibustered by Democratic state senators for 39 hours before Republicans forced a vote and ultimately passed SJR 39, which would amend the state constitution to prohibit officials from “penalizing clergy, religious organizations, and certain individuals for their religious beliefs concerning marriage between two people of the same sex.”
Democratic governor Jay Nixon has no say in whether SJR 39 moves forward, as it is a ballot measure and not a bill requiring executive signature. But his stance is clear:
In Georgia, governor Deal has yet to indicate whether he’ll sign HB 757. He has previously said Georgia will follow the Supreme Court’s lead on marriage equality, though he has voiced support for religious liberty bills in other states. But with Atlanta’s status as “the Hollywood of the South” on the line, a veto might be his only option.