Last week, the Georgia legislature passed a bill allowing LGBT discrimination under the guise of “religious liberty” protection. This piece of legislation would have voided an existing ordinance that prevented establishments from banning transgender people from using their preferred restrooms. The ordinance also prevented housing-related bias based upon gender or sexual identity. Essentially, the legislation would have provided for state-sanctioned discriminatory practices.
Immediately after the bill’s success hit news outlets, several companies made their perspectives known. Apple threatened a boycott, as did the NFL, which placed Atlanta’s Super Bowl bid (for the shiny new Mercedes-Benz Stadium) in jeopardy. Likewise, both Marvel and Disney threatened to stop filming in Atlanta, where many of the Avengers-related films have been produced. Republican Governor Nathan Deal, who appeared to enjoy himself at the Ant-Man premiere, wanted to nip that threat in the bud. Or perhaps he simply realized the legislation wasn’t a grand idea. On Monday morning, Deal vetoed House Bill 757 and spoke at a press conference:
“I have examined the protections that this bill proposes to provide to the faith-based community, and I can find no examples of any of those circumstances occurring in our state … I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia. Georgia is a welcoming state.
“Some of those in the religious community who support this bill have resorted to insults that question my moral convictions and my character. Some within the business community who oppose this bill have resorted to threats of withdrawing jobs from our state. I do not respond well to insults or threats. The people of Georgia deserve a leader who will made sound judgments based on solid reasons that are not inflamed by emotion.”
Hollywood’s influence in Georgia is not negligible. The state lures productions with a generous tax incentive (up to 30%); Disney and Marvel put that perk on the line for their stance, and it’s no wonder they won the bargain. Over the course of fiscal year 2015, 248 films and television shows rolled cameras in the state, which carried a $6 billion economic impact. This included over $1.7 billion in spending and employment for thousands of people. That kind of revitalization cannot be passed up for a bill that could trample an entire group’s rights.
After Deal’s press conference, State Sen. Bill Heath vowed to keep the bill alive, saying there are enough votes for a veto session. Here’s a video clip from Deal’s press conference.