One of the flashiest sectors of Georgia’s economy is mobilizing with new urgency after the passage last week of a controversial religious liberty proposal in the state Senate that critics maintain would enable discrimination.
The new front in the continued legal battle over same-sex marriage, the Georgia General Assembly has been weighing some eight proposals this session that would in some way grant safe harbor to opponents of the freedom to marry. In several instances, the legislation would give explicit license to deny service to gays and lesbians and even single mothers, according to legal analysts.
On Friday, the Senate approved legislation combining two proposals, the Pastor Protection Act and First Amendment Defense Act. The combined bill awaits final approval by the House of Representatives.
Now, the entertainment industry, among the state tax code’s most nurtured sectors, is warning that Georgia’s close-up will soon cut.
“This very assembly working on this bill has invested billions of taxpayer dollars growing an industry that would leave this state,” Brian Tolleson, the president of Atlanta-based entertainment firm Bark Bark, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “They will boycott coming to shoot anything here.”
In a separate commentary for local business publication Saporta Report, Tolleson, whose grandfather founded Atlanta Gas Equipment Co., raised the specter of Indiana’s own religious liberty bill and the economic and reputational fallout that ensued.
“Economists in our state have warned that we could see reverberations greater than those seen last in Indiana — and yet some lawmakers push forward,” he wrote. “We should be talking about bills that strengthen our state and protect everyone and grow our economy — not bills that set us back a generation and do irreparable harm to our state’s reputation.”
Tax incentives for the film industry rate among the state’s most lucrative and supporters argue the credits have created a bustling cottage industry.
Since 2008, when the credits were expanded, the industry’s economic impact jumped from $260 million to a $6 billion in 2015, according to figures from the Georgia Department of Economic Development. That same agency estimates that the industry directly employs 22,400 Georgians and another 77,900 people indirectly.
Last year, a gay rights group ran advertisements on the website of popular Los Angeles entertainment publication Variety to brow beat the national film industry to more forcefully oppose religious liberty proposals in the state. (Pictured above.)