A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis florist, on March 25, 2015, shows it's objection to the Religious Freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature.
Photo by Michael Conroy/AP

Georgia faces business pressure over ‘religious liberty’ bill

A year ago at this time, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) and his state’s Republican-led legislature sparked a national controversy when it approved a right-to-discriminate measure, intended to empower workers to cite religious objections to deny services to the public. Initially, GOP officials weren’t especially concerned about criticisms from the left.
But Indiana’s state government changed direction when prominent businesses and private-sector leaders said they would start avoiding the state unless Indiana changed course. Pence did exactly that soon after.
A year later, Georgia’s Republican-led state government is moving forward with a related “religious liberty” measure. The Washington Post reported this week reported that the Human Rights Campaign urged the entertainment industry to threaten to withhold business from Georgia if the bill becomes law. Variety reported yesterday that one Hollywood giant agreed (via Ron Chusid):
The Walt Disney Co. and Marvel Studios indicated opposition to a Georgia religious liberty bill pending before Gov. Nathan Deal, saying that they will take their business elsewhere “should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.”
With generous tax incentives, Georgia has become a production hub, with Marvel currently shooting “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” at Pinewood Studios outside Atlanta. “Captain America: Civil War” shot there last summer.
A company spokesperson said yesterday, “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.”
They join other major corporations headquartered in the state – Coca-Cola, Home Depot, UPS, and Cox Enterprises – in opposing the bill. AMC Networks, which films “The Walking Dead” in Georgia, also called for the state to reject the proposal. High-profile corporations from outside the state, including Apple, have joined the call.
Complicating matters further, the National Football League suggested “that such a law in Georgia could affect Atlanta’s attempts” to host an upcoming Super Bowl.
So, the question now is what Gov. Nathan Deal (R) intends to do about all of this. Keep in mind, the GOP-led state legislature passed the “religious liberty” proposal last week, sending it to the governor’s desk.
Deal has a reputation for being “pro-business,” but he’s also a socially conservative Republican. Watch this space.