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How the laws of religious freedom became a flashpoint in the governorship of Georgia

John Latenser is a location manager: When a director has to shoot scenes with a certain background, he will find some options, make arrangements with the owners, take precautions, and what to do in the rain. Latenser has worked on "Black Panther," "Transformers," "Deep Impact," and other projects dating back decades. A few years ago, he moved from Washington, DC, to Georgia, which was on its way to becoming "Hollywood of the South." The industry has reportedly created nearly one hundred thousand jobs in the state and an estimated $ 2.7 billion to the US introduced direct spending in Georgia last fiscal year. Georgia has a large international airport and a variety of film-like landscapes ̵

1; mountains, beaches, a big city, scenery – but what really made the movie a top location is its tax credits. Since 2008, manufacturing companies working in Georgia are earning 30 percent of their money by flashing the state peach logo at the end of movies and TV shows.

But in January, Latenser recently told me that many of his colleagues were becoming anxious. "There was a peculiar production break at the beginning of the year," he said. "Nobody could put a finger on it. We did not know what was going on. It seemed logical that people were waiting for what was happening politically. "Tom Pierce, an associate working in site management, told me the same thing. "One of the rumors was that they were waiting to see how it would handle the governor's race," he said.

It was, as far as you know, just a rumor, but there was a logic behind it: Four of the Republicans who had applied for a governor, including the party's future candidate, Brian Kemp, had pledged a law to restore the To enforce religious freedom if elected. There are versions of RFRA in some twenty states; These laws often aim to protect businesses and individuals who want to deny gay couples services for religious reasons. Georgia passed RFRA legislation in 2016 – but before it came into effect, Disney, Netflix, CBS, MGM, Steven Spielberg and others in the film industry publicly condemned it, and many threatened to take it projects elsewhere , Eventually, the state's Republican governor, Nathan Deal, vetoed the legislation and rejected the more conservative members of his party. "I do not think we have to discriminate against someone to protect the faith community," he said at the time. (Deal, who had reached the state's limit of two consecutive terms, will resign in January.)

As the race between Kemp and his Democrat opponent, Stacey Abrams, finishes, much of the press coverage has focused on which candidate most supporters can find, and Also, whether some Georgians, especially African Americans, will be denied their voting rights. The conservative Kemp and the progressive Abrams provide voters with pitches that are so different that it is hard to imagine anyone having trouble deciding between them. However, if there are swing voters, these are likely to be local business leaders, many of whom are Republicans, but who consider Kemp more cultural than economic. (In front of over five hundred employers in Georgia an ad was recently signed in the Atlanta Business Chronicle stating that they object to RFRA legislation.) In August, Kemp and Abrams took Part of a lunch in Macon is hosted by the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. At the event, Abrams denounced RFRA legislation, which reportedly received loud applause. The Georgia Chamber of Commerce has supported candidates in nine races, all Republicans. During lunch, the Chamber President announced that he would not be a proponent of nationwide races where there is no incumbent, such as the governor's race.

On Monday, Shirley Franklin, the former mayor of Atlanta, led a road-a press conference with other Democrats and local businessmen in front of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce's Georgia Chamber of Commerce office and talked about the threat they felt would mean a Kemp government for the Georgian economy. Among the attendees were some film industry veterans, including Garreth Stover, a production designer at Dynasty, who moved from California to Georgia ten years ago, with his wife and two children, despite the "stereotypes of the South" as he puts it me before. "He wins, I go," Stover said of Kemp at the press conference, while Matt Earl Beesley, executive producer of "Dynasty", waited for his chance to denounce Kemp and his podium agenda only in a slightly softer state

] Josh McKoon, a Republican State Senator who was one of the main proponents of RFRA legislation in Georgia, is skeptical of such threats. "Hollywood and the entertainment industry seem to have no problem buying their goods in countries with real human rights issues," he told me, mentioning Hollywood actors who accept jobs in China and participate in promotions and "star tours" in Singapore. "There is no evidence that Hollywood will move away from the country's richest government subsidy for its industry." He added, "It's a bluff – and I do not think we should not decide how free our people will be or what civil rights Georgians can enjoy because of what an outside economy can or can not do." [19659002] Kemp – whose campaign refused to comment on this piece, but has referred me to other sources – insists on the legislation he advocates, would simply return an already existing federal law – raising the question of why the legislation Abrams, who was minority leader in the state legislature from 2007 to 2017, told me that the reason why Georgia did not [RFI state-level, was that the federal law existed. "It is not necessary to adopt a state version except as an excuse to discriminate against the LGBTQ community, "she said when I named McKoon after Abrams & # 3 9; Comments asked, he said to me: "Look, whether we tomorrow or next year RFRA exist, does not affect the fact that there is no law that L.G.B.T.Q. Persons in class protection status. In July, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, based in Atlanta, ruled that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not extend the protection of federal jobs to gays and lesbians, and did not refuse to rethink a previous ruling ( In February, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals came to a different conclusion in New York with a verdict in another case.)

McKoon had hoped to replace Kemp as Georgian Secretary of State, but lost the Republican guardian in May, and so on From January, he will no longer hold an election office in Georgia. Meanwhile, Georgia's House Speaker, Republican David Ralston, does not seem to be a fan of the laws RFRA : Earlier this year, he told the Atlanta Constitution "I have not seen much from the States, who have dealt with these issues, which is why I want to search for places like North Carolina, Indiana and the others. "In North Carolina, the so-called bathroom bill, House Bill 2, passed in 2016 and subsequently revised, led filmmakers and production companies to relocate projects from the state. (Norm Bielowicz, a former director of the Georgia State Film Office, said to me, "Nothing is done there, and they have a tax incentive.") Indianas RFRA Law revised to Republicans in the US State passed the language to state leaders, signed in 2015 by Mike Pence, the then governor. The Trump Pence Administration was Unsurprising RFRA -friendly: In May, Trump signed an order to create a "faith initiative" that, according to critics, "could facilitate religion-justified discrimination."

In the RFRA laws, Ralston spokesman for Georgia House said, "I'm a kind of forward-thinking guy, and I want to look ahead." However, the question may not be the case Looking into the future or into the past, as well as in Georgia or beyond. Kemp and his allies have said that voting for Abrams is a vote "to turn Georgia into the next California." It is intended as an indication of their criminal justice policy, but could be more useful in the context of RFRA and the relationship of the state to the film industry. "I talked to studio heads in L.A. who said that if they pass, they will go," she said. It's not just the film industry, she added: technology entrepreneurs interested in Georgia said the same thing. Amazon is considering considering Atlanta for its second American headquarters, and the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce held several meetings with Atlanta leaders where the company was set up. Some fear that the RFRA legislation would destroy the opportunities of the Amazon for Georgia.

Latenser, the location manager who moved from DC to Georgia, said to me, "When I drive directors and producers based in California, and they put the signs of Stacey Abrams in particular Seeing neighborhoods, they get pretty excited. But then they see Trump signs and do not know what to think. They say, "The people here really support him?" And yes, in Georgia many do. "

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