How Hollywood Studios Are Taking A Stand Against Anti-LGBT Legislation
Although Georgia has always been considered one of the best states in the country in which to shoot films or television series because of its excellent tax credits, a recent bill might change that reputation. The Free Exercise Protection Act, a controversial "anti-gay" bill, was introduced by Senator Josh McKoon and passed by state legislators earlier this month, and now, many studios are saying that they will boycott Georgia for productions the bill is passed. As Deadline reports, the Act is meant to "protect religious officials from having to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies and would allow faith-based organizations to deny services or employment to those who violate their sincerely held religious belief" — which critics interpret as merely a convenient way to discriminate against the LGBT community.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal has until May 3 to sign the law, and although he stated on Monday that he would veto it, many are still worried about its potential repercussions — and urging those with interests in the state to take action. Last Monday, Chad Griffin, the head of the Human Rights Campaign, called on Hollywood studios to boycott productions in Georgia, should Deal sign the bill into law. "That is wrong. It's un-American," Griffin said while speaking at the group's annual gala in Los Angeles, according to AJC. "It's an affront on all the values Hollywood prides itself on. And you have the influence and the opportunity to not only defeat this bill, but to send a message that there are consequences to passing dangerous and hateful laws like this."
Thankfully, many in Hollywood seem to agree. First to take a stand was Marvel and parent company Disney, which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, gave a statement about their plans to end Georgia productions if the bill was made into law. Soon, The Weinstein Company joined them, followed by Time Warner, 21st Century Fox, Sony, CBS, Discovery, AMC, and many more networks and companies. Actors such as Matt Bomer, Anne Hathaway, Kristin Chenoweth, Julianne Moore, Marisa Tomei, as well as screenwriters Diablo Cody and Aaron Sorkin and directors Seth MacFarlane, Lee Daniels, Rob Reiner, and Ryan Murphy, have all put their names on the HRC's campaign letter to Governor Deal, as well.
With huge corporations like the NFL, Coca-Cola, Delta, and Home Depot also taking a stand, according to The Daily Beast, it only made sense that Hollywood took up the cause as well. Even those behind major franchises have joined in; as Deadline reports, Lionsgate, which has filmed all four installments of The Hunger Games series in or around Atlanta, released a statement that urged the Governor to veto the bill and said that if it were to be passed, the studio might no longer be able to "offer our employees and talent there a working environment consistent with our policies and values."
Clearly, if the bill is passed, it'll have massive repercussions, including with ongoing projects. Guardians of the Galaxy 2, for instance, is currently shooting right outside of Atlanta in Pinewood studios, but Disney/Marvel's hard-line stance could potentially halt proceedings. But it's not just Georgia's productions that might cause issues; should the following other states pass or continue discriminatory legislation, the film industry could be boycotting more than just the Peach State.
Indiana's "Religious Freedom Restoration Act," which, The Huffington Post reports, allows business owners to refuse to serve LGBT customers according to their faith, has caused major controversy since its passing in 2015. Celebrities including Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres, Debra Messing, Bette Midler, Susan Sarandon, James Van Der Beek, and MC Hammer all tweeted about their disappointment in the state, and many hve called for a boycott. Said Broadway star Audra McDonald,
There are a number of upcoming productions in the works in Indiana, but with much so celebrity-backed criticism of the law, it wouldn't be a surprise if studios avoided the state for productions when possible.
When Governor Bobby Jindal signed an executive order allowing businesses to refuse service to LGBT patrons based on their religious beliefs, some of those involved in the state's film production shared their disappointment. "For those of us in the creative industries... this bill creates a significant challenge," said Lampton Enochs, CEO of Moonbot Studios, a film animation company in one of Louisiana’s main movie hubs, according to the IB Times. "We're competing with companies in L.A., San Francisco, and New York. I think a bill like this would make it difficult to recruit out-of-state talent."
Louisiana has been the backdrop of films as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Dallas Buyers Club, and 12 Years a Slave, as well as HBO's True Detective, and Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay's series Queen Sugar recently began shooting in New Orleans. Only time will tell if either woman, or any other filmmakers, will choose to stop production in the state as the result of the order.
On Monday, North Carolina was sued in federal court to block a bill that would override LGBT-inclusive non-discrimination policies and limits transgender people's use of public restrooms. As Buzzfeed reports, the lawsuit states that "by singling out LGBT people for disfavored treatment and explicitly writing discrimination against transgender people into state law, H.B. 2 violates the most basic guarantees of equal treatment and the U.S. Constitution."
According to Variety, director Rob Reiner stated earlier this week that he will not film anything in North Carolina until the law is repealed. In addition, CinemaBlend reports that the Motion Picture Association of America stated that Hollywood's studios oppose "any law that legitimizes discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression," and are against this bill. As for how it'll affect future productions, that's not yet known; the upcoming live production of Dirty Dancing starring Abigail Breslin is set to air live from a studio in North Carolina later this year. Sleepy Hollow also films in the state, although the fate of the series is currently up in the air.
This month, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed the Pastor Protection Act, which is meant to protect religious entities and individuals from lawsuits if they don't believe in administering LGBT weddings. According to FloridaPolitics, the NFL has said that the action could cost Tampa an upcoming Superbowl, for which it was in the running. Netflix currently shoots the Kyle Chandler drama Bloodline in the Florida Keys, but since its stance on the Georgia bill was so strong, it's possible the company will have a similar stance on Florida's legislation.
Time will tell how Hollywood reacts to the above bills and laws, but for now, it's heartening to see such a strong response to the Georgia act.
Images: Lionsgate, Giphy