The state of Georgia has gone out of its way to entice Hollywood to come on over. Appealing tax breaks are working - in 2015, Georgia was reported to be the third-largest state when it came to film production, just behind New York and California. In 2015 alone, the state hosted film and TV productions that spent a reported $1.7 billion (up from just $132.5 million in 2007).
This growth has included Disney, which shot blockbusters like Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War in the Peach State. Production of the sequel to Guardians of the Galaxy is currently underway there.
But that's at risk now.
Earlier this month, Georgia lawmakers passed the Free Exercise Protection Act, and now Governor Nathan Deal has until May 3rd to either veto or approve it.
The measure would allow faith-based organizations in Georgia to deny services to those they say "violate their beliefs." Think religious organizations that could fire or refuse employment to LGBT people, refuse to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies, and turn people away from their facilities based solely on "differing religious beliefs or practices."
It's basically an anti-gay bill, and Disney isn't having it.
"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 spokesperson said. (my emphasis)
That's not all: Last week, the NFL said that if the bill is passed, it could cost Atlanta the chance to host the Super Bowl before this decade is out. The owner of the Atlanta Falcons said the bill "undermines" the state's inclusive principles, and the Atlanta Braves called it "detrimental to our community and bad for Georgia."
Others to raise objections include Home Depot, Coca-Cola and Delta Air Lines, all huge employers in Atlanta, as well as Apple, which put out an eloquent statement that included the following:
"Apple is proud to support 44,000 people all across Georgia. Our stores and our company are open to anyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love."
But it's one thing to make a strong statement that's just that - a statement. It's another to take an actual stand. In this case, Disney is one of the only studios so far to actually come out and say that they'll pull their business if the bill is passed.
They should be commended for that.
In a civilized society, laws are the expression of the people in them. They may be drawn up in city halls and held up in courthouses, but they emanate from the hearts and minds of people. And while they can seem dry and distant, they affect the lives of real human beings.
Hollywood wields tremendous power in our modern world, and Disney in particular, because its films often target children - the most impressionable of all our citizens.
Imagine the lessons those children are learning from Disney this time:
That even if you're not a lawmaker, you can use your influence to impact laws.
That the powerful can stand up for the rights of the powerless.
That a company that makes movies about heroes can be one, too.