- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Walt Disney Co. and its subsidiary Marvel are threatening not to shoot films in Georgia if the governor signs a religious liberty bill that the opponents say is discriminatory against gays and the transgendered.

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 in a statement.

The boycott threat comes after Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin issued a clarion call for Hollywood to stop doing business in Georgia after the legislature passed the Free Exercise Protection Act.

Republican Gov. Nathan Deal has not indicated whether he will sign the bill.

“We applaud Disney and Marvel for standing up for fairness and equality by sending a strong warning to Governor Deal,” Mr. Griffin said in a statement. “It’s appalling that anti-LGBT activists in Georgia are trying to pass legislation creating an explicit right to discriminate against LGBT Americans.”

The bill initially would have allowed Georgians to decline service for same-sex weddings if doing so violated their religious beliefs. But, sensing the coming storm, Mr. Deal urged lawmakers to make substantial changes to the legislation before passing it.

“I know there are a lot of Georgians who feel like this is a necessary step for us to take,” Mr. Deal said during deliberations over the bill. “I would hope that in the process of these last few days, we can keep in mind the concerns of the faith-based community, which I believe can be protected without setting up the situation where we could be accused of allowing or encouraging discrimination.”

The new version of the bill says the protections do not apply in cases of “invidious discrimination,” which could mean religious wedding vendors would not be protected from declining to service same-sex marriage ceremonies.

The Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau said this week that it has heard from at least 15 companies that are considering pulling convention business out of Atlanta if the legislation becomes law. ACVB President and CEO William Pate said the loss of that business could cost the city up to $6 billion, the Atlanta Business Chronicle reported.

Conservatives accused Georgia of gutting the bill’s primary purpose.

“It is unfortunate that the Georgia legislature caved to pressure from big business and special interests to water down their weakened bill even further,” wrote the Heritage Foundation’s Roger Severino and Ryan Anderson at the Daily Signal. “Other states must stand vigilant against such cultural cronyism.”

Recent Marvel films such as “Ant-Man,” “Captain America: Civil War” and “Guardians of the Galaxy 2” have been shot in Atlanta. The boycott could also extend to the Disney-ABC Television Group.

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