By Chris Pleasance
Disney is leading the charge by for entertainment companies threatening a multi-billion dollar boycott of Georgia if the state adopts laws allowing religious institutions to refuse services to gay people.
In a strongly worded statement, Disney executives said Wednesday that 'we plan to take our business elsewhere should any legislation allowing discriminatory practices be signed into state law.'
Bosses at the behemoth production house, which is currently filming Guardians Of The Galaxy 2 outside Atlanta, are referring to House Bill 757 - dubbed the Free Exercise Protection Act.
The bill, which has already been rejected once by governor Nathan Deal, would 'provide that religious officials shall not be required to perform marriage ceremonies in violation of their legal right to free exercise of religion.'
In addition, faith-based organizations would be allowed to refuse to hire and refuse services to people who 'violate such faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.'
The legislation was passed by Georgia lawmakers on March 16 and has now been passed to Deal for final approval, who says he faces a 'tough' call on the issue.
Disney, the largest entertainment company in the world, was joined in its condemnation by AMC which film hit series The Walking Dead and Halt & Catch Fire in Georgia.
A spokesman told Deadline: 'As a company, AMC Networks believes that discrimination of any kind is reprehensible.
'We applaud Governor Deal’s leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well.'
Viacom, another production company with controlling shares in the likes of Comedy Central, MTV and BET has also issued a statement hitting out at the legislation.
A spokesman said: 'Viacom is proud to champion diversity and acceptance, which are core values of our company.
'We have enjoyed doing business in Georgia for many years and we urge Governor Deal to continue to resist and reject the patently discriminatory laws being proposed.'
While Disney and AMC are leading the charge on boycotting Georgia, they are certainly not the only entertainment companies that could threaten to take their business elsewhere.
Universal Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and Sony Pictures Entertainment all also operate in the state, according to the LA Times.
While those firms have not called for an outright boycott if the legislation is signed into law, most of them have stood behind a statement from the Motion Picture Association of America that says: 'We are confident that Governor Deal will not allow a discriminatory bill to become law in Georgia.'
Georgia has been pushing hard to draw film and television production companies away from Hollywood and into the state with a series of attractive tax breaks and high-profile PR blitzes.
That prompted the likes of actor-cum-producer-cum-director Tyler Perry to construct a new film studio in the state which he boasts will be 'bigger than Warner Bros' when it opens.
The NFL has also hinted that Georgia's bid to host a Super Bowl in the near future at the refurbished Atlanta Falcons stadium could also be on the line if the legislation passes.
Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has an openly gay brother, said in a statement: 'NFL policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard.
'Whether the laws and regulations of a state and local community are consistent with these policies would be one of many factors NFL owners may use to evaluate potential Super Bowl host sites.'