Hollywood actors join Georgia boycott threats over gay bill

Anne Hathaway (above) and about 30 other actors and directors have signed a petition expressing concern that a new bill would discriminate against gay people.
Anne Hathaway (above) and about 30 other actors and directors have signed a petition expressing concern that a new bill would discriminate against gay people. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

NEW YORK • Anne Hathaway, Julianne Moore and about 30 other Hollywood actors and directors added their voice on Thursday to entertainment industry threats to boycott Georgia if the state's governor signs a new law seen as discriminating against gay people.

Movie and television studios 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal and Time Warner joined Walt Disney, AMC, Viacom and Marvel Entertainment in either opposing the bill or saying they would take their productions elsewhere.

Lured by tax incentives, more than 240 film and television shows were filmed in Georgia last year, bringing an estimated US$1.7 billion (S$2.3 billion) into the state. They included AMC's hit zombie series The Walking Dead, Disney's 2015 film Ant-Man and Lionsgate's new movie Allegiant.

The controversial bill, passed by the Georgia state legislature last week, declares that no pastor can be forced to perform a same-sex wedding. Faith-based groups could not be forced to hire or retain an employee whose beliefs run counter to the organisation, while churches and religious schools would have the right to reject holding events for people or groups to whom they object.

Georgia's Republican Governor Nathan Deal has said he will not sign a bill that allows discrimination. He has until May 3 to decide whether to sign the measure into law.

The Weinstein Co said in a statement that it planned to film a biopic of late comedian Richard Pryor in Georgia later this year "but will move the production if this unlawful bill is enacted". It called the measure "sanctioned bigotry".

The West Wing creator Aaron Sorkin and Glee creator Ryan Murphy joined Hathaway and Moore in signing a petition addressed to Mr Deal expressing concern that the bill would "sanction discrimination against LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) people and others in Georgia". "We will plan to take our business elsewhere if any legislation sanctioning discrimination is signed into state law," said the petition, organised by the gay rights organisation Human Rights Campaign.

The Human Rights Campaign noted that only California and New York have a larger entertainment industry footprint than Georgia and both those states have laws protecting against discrimination.

The entertainment industry is the latest group to come out in force against the Georgia law. More than 300 companies, including Google, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines have urged that it be dropped. The National Football League said last week that if the bill is signed, Atlanta could lose the opportunity to host any future Super Bowls.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 26, 2016, with the headline 'Hollywood actors join Georgia boycott threats over gay bill'. Print Edition | Subscribe