Walt Disney Co. and other organizations praised Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal's decision Monday to veto controversial legislation that looked to expand individuals' and business' rights to deny services to those whose way of life conflicts with their religious beliefs.
The stakes were high for Georgia. Since lawmakers March 16 approved the bill perceived as anti-gay, many influential companies had come out against the legislation. Last week, Disney, the world's largest entertainment firm, said it would stop making films in the state if Deal, a two-term Republican governor, signed the Free Exercise Protection Act into law.
Disney was the first major studio to threaten to take its business elsewhere, sparking an extraordinary campaign by Hollywood companies to derail the legislation.
"We applaud Governor Deal for making the right decision on this piece of legislation and look forward to continuing our film production in Georgia," a spokesman for Disney said in a statement.
Disney, which did not make executives available for interviews Monday, has shot several films in Georgia in recent years, including 2015's Marvel Studios-produced "Ant-Man." The company's "Guardians of the Galaxy 2" also is in production there.
Like many other studios, the Burbank company had been lured to Georgia in part by lucrative production incentives the state offers to film and TV companies.
The issue struck a chord with Chairman and Chief Executive Robert Iger, who felt it was important for the company to make a strong statement on the legislation given Disney's presence in the state, said a person close to the studio unauthorized to comment publicly.
After Disney's boycott threat, other show business firms — including Netflix and Weinstein Co. — had also said they would stop making films and TV shows in the Peach State. Media giants including Time Warner and Viacom also decried the bill.
Ric Reitz, president of SAG-AFTRA in Atlanta, said Georgia's film business community was experiencing a "sense of relief" over news of Deal's veto.
"I think the governor showed a lot of courage and conviction today with his announcement," he said. "Don't discount the fact that Georgia is always trying to find the right solution. It may not always be easy and it certainly isn't unanimous."
When reached for comment Monday, a handful of other major entertainment companies, including Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox and Universal Pictures, referred The Times to the Motion Picture Assn. of America, a trade organization that represents the studios.