Marvel Studios, its parent company, Disney & The Walking Dead production house are threatening to pack up their heroes and go home if Georgia governor Nathan Deal signs the pending religious-liberty bill into law.
The bill, introduced by Senator Josh McKoon and passed by legislators last week, would 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.”
This anti-gay legislation has inspired Disney and Marvel to hit Deal and Georgia where it hurts: right in the wallet & The Walking Dead have joined the fight.
Georgia has used tax incentives to entice high-profile Hollywood productions like The Walking Dead and several of Marvel’s superhero properties to film in the Peach State. Last summer, Governor Deal boasted about Georgia’s partnership with Marvel, saying, “Ant-Man employed 3,579 Georgians, spent more than $106 million in Georgia, and utilized 22,413 hotel rooms during filming.”
The commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, Chris Carr, chimed in with the larger picture:
More than 100 new businesses have relocated or expanded in Georgia to support the [film and TV] industry, creating jobs for Georgians as well as economic opportunities for our communities and small businesses and ensuring Georgia’s place in the industry well into the future.
On Wednesday a Disney spokesman made that future a little more uncertain, saying, “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.”
AMC has joined Marvel and Disney in taking a stand against Georgia’s controversial religious-liberty bill.
The network films its most popular show, The Walking Dead, in the Peach State, and, in a statement to the Los Angeles Times, said,
“As a company, 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.”
Though the network’s language isn’t as conclusive as Disney’s, AMC pulling The Walking Dead could strike an even bigger blow to Georgia. In addition to creating local jobs, the hugely popular show has had a massively beneficial impact on the local tourism and housing markets.
Though Georgia legislators passed the law last week, it has faced opposition from local business groups, and Deal himself said weeks ago that he would reject any legislation that “allows discrimination in our state in order to protect people of faith.”
But even though the bill was already headed toward a gubernatorial veto, over the weekend Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, urged Hollywood to send a strong message to Georgia. Calling the bill “wrong,” “un-American,” and “an affront on all the values Hollywood prides itself on,”
Griffin told attendees of the H.R.C.’s annual Los Angeles gala, “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.”
So probably, this is more about the production houses sending that message than actually defeating any legislation. And it’s likely that any credit the studios get once Deal does veto will be somewhat misplaced.
Still it’s an important message to send and a strong one coming from a companies that, between kid-friendly cartoons, Zombies, Star Wars, and Marvel, has such a firm grip on our popular culture.