Hollywood heavyweights slam Georgia 'religious liberty' bill

Hollywood has decisively turned on Georgia's "religious liberty" measure.

A day after the Walt Disney Co. and AMC Networks warned they would pull productions from Georgia if Gov. Nathan Deal signs the measure into law, the Human Rights Campaign circulated a letter signed by more than two dozen actors, directors, producers and other entertainment figures calling on him to nullify the bill.

Among the names: Producer Aaron Sorkin, actress Anne Hathaway, actress Kristin Chenoweth and director Gus Van Sant.

Time Warner, which runs Atlanta-based Turner businesses, also joined the growing number of entertainment giants criticizing the measure. The company said in a statement the measure "clearly violates the values and principles of inclusion."

"All of our divisions – HBO, Warner Bros. and Turner – have business interests in Georgia, but none more than Turner, an active participant in the Georgia Prospers campaign, a coalition of business leaders committed to a Georgia that welcomes all people," the company said. "Georgia bill HB 757 is in contradiction to this campaign, to the values we hold dear, and to the type of workplace we guarantee to our employees."

More: Learn more about the legislation here.

Fox said in a statement Thursday that it was opposed to the measure and Starz, which shoots "Survivor's Remorse" in Atlanta, also urged Deal to pull out his veto pen.

"Starz is an inclusionary company and strongly opposes discrimination in any form, against anyone," the company said in a statement. "As a proud production partner in Georgia for several years, we urge Governor Deal to show the same leadership he has in the past and reject this divisive legislation."

Religious conservatives have long sought a way to strengthen legal protections for opponents of same-sex marriage, but the effort crystallized this legislative session on the heels of the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling. Critics warn that it amounts to legalized discrimination and warn of a corporate backlash similar to the blowback Indiana faced.

MoreThe behind-the-scenes story on Georgia’s religious liberty debate

Deal said earlier this month he would reject any measure that amounted to discrimination, but he hasn’t suggested whether he would veto this specific legislation. He’s long trumpeted the state’s vibrant movie industry, which has taken off under a tax credit championed by Deal and his predecessor Sonny Perdue.

The incentives, which offers up to 30 percent tax credits to big-budget productions, has made Georgia a hotbed for movie production. The state estimates nearly 250 film and TV productions were shot in Georgia in fiscal 2015, netting $1.7 billion in direct spending and an economic development impact of more than $6 billion.

Here's the letter:

“Dear Governor Deal,

As leaders in the entertainment industry, we have deep concerns about H.B. 757, which would sanction discrimination against LGBT people and others in Georgia.

As you know, Atlanta is often referred to as the Hollywood of the South. During the last fiscal year, at least 248 films and television productions were shot in Georgia, adding at least $1.7 billion in direct spending to the state's economy. Additionally, the entertainment industry helped to bring more than 100 businesses to Georgia through relocation or expansion in the past fiscal year. Only two states -- California and New York -- have a larger entertainment industry footprint and both have statewide non-discrimination protections on the books. Unfortunately, Georgia not only lacks such protections, but could soon move from a bad situation to worse with H.B. 757.

We pride ourselves on running inclusive companies, and while we have enjoyed a positive partnership on productions in Georgia, we will plan to take our business elsewhere if any legislation sanctioning discrimination is signed into state law.

We urge you to veto H.B. 757 and send a strong message that Georgia will not tolerate discrimination against citizens, employees and visitors to the state.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this urgent issue.”

Ali Adler, Writer and Producer

Greg Berlanti, Writer and Producer

Matt Bomer, Actor & Simon Halls, Publicist

Dustin Lance Black, Screenwriter and Filmmaker

Bradley Bredeweg, Executive Producer and Showrunner

Kristin Chenoweth, Actress and Singer

Diablo Cody, Writer, Producer and Director

Bruce Cohen, Producer

Lee Daniels, Producer and Director

Dana Fox, Writer and Producer

John Goldwyn, Producer

James Gunn, Writer and Director

Anne Hathaway, Actress

Alan Hergott, Entertainment Attorney

Nina Jacobson, Producer

Dan Jinks, Producer

Kathy Kennedy, Producer

Zoe Kravitz, Actress

Bryan Lourd, Talent Agent

Seth MacFarlane, Producer and Filmmaker

Laurence Mark, Producer

Frank Marshall, Producer and Director

Neil Meron, Producer

Julianne Moore, Actress

Ryan Murphy, Producer

Peter Paige, Executive Producer and Showrunner

Rob Reiner, Actor, Director and Producer              

Sarah Schechter, Producer

Adam Shankman, Director and Producer

Aaron Sorkin, Screenwriter and Producer

Marisa Tomei, Actress

Gus Van Sant, Producer and Director

Harvey Weinstein, Producer and Film Studio Executive

Craig Zadan, Producer and Director

MoreWeeks of debate ahead over Georgia’s religious liberty bill

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.