Georgia’s “religious liberty” bill drew Hollywood criticism and threats of boycotts before the state's governor vetoed the legislation. Georgia is far from the first state to face intense criticism for controversial legislation involving religious freedoms and protections (or lack thereof) for LGBT people. Over the years, several states have seen similar controversies arise over their own state legislation and have opted to resolve the situations in a variety of ways.
In North Carolina, state lawmakers looked to make HB 2 a law in order to prevent cities and counties from making their own rules with regard to anti-discrimination, spurred in large part by expansive anti-discrimination measures passed by Charlotte in February. Charlotte’s new laws looked to protect transgender individuals who sought to use restrooms in alignment with their gender identity, a move that North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory called a “breach of basic privacy and etiquette.”
Result: McCrory signed the bill on March 23, 2016.
Fallout: North Carolina’s decision has spawned much criticism from corporations and individuals alike, with director-producer Rob Reiner vowing to not film in the state while the law stands and the NBA, scheduled to host its All-Star Game in Charlotte in 2017, is looking into what effect the new law will have on their ability to maintain those plans. Other corporations that have spoken out publicly against the bill include PayPal, Google and Apple.
On March 28, LGBT-rights groups filed a federal lawsuit asking that the new law not be enforced and that it be declared unconstitutional.
North Carolina's attorney general said the next day that he wouldn't defend in court a new state law preventing Charlotte and other local governments from approving protections for LGBT people, calling it discriminatory and a "national embarrassment."
On April 5, PayPal announced it would cancel its planned expansion in Charlotte because of the law. The plan called for 400 additional jobs.
The PayPal announcement is the biggest tangible economic backlash to the state law that more than 100 corporate heads have decried as unfair.
In Arizona, legislators hoped to pass SB 1062, a measure giving businesses the right to assert that their religious beliefs superseded the necessity to provide service to gay and lesbian customers. Critics of the bill argued that the language would allow discrimination against any group of individuals for any religious reason.
Result: Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed the bill on Feb. 26, 2014
Fallout: It’s likely that Brewer’s ultimate decision to veto was affected by the NFL’s warning that it was “following the issue” brewing in Arizona as it unfolded, just a year before the state was due to host Super Bowl XLIX. Arizona had been previously spurned by the NFL when, in 1990, the state failed to pass a Martin Luther King Jr. Day ballot measure and the league subsequently moved Super Bowl XXVII from Tempe, Ariz., to Pasadena. Delta Air Lines, the MLB and George Takei were also noted critics of SB 1062.
Arkansas hoped to pass HB 1228 in order to increase “judicial scrutiny” in cases involving religious beliefs, an attempt to fight back against the legalization of same-sex marriage. Critics of the bill saw it as a move toward legalized discrimination of LGBT individuals.
Result: Gov. Asa Hutchinson refused to sign the bill as written. The legislature then submitted compromise SB 975, a revised version of the bill that looks to more closely mirror federal law, revising the bill to address only government actions, not businesses or individuals, yet lacked language for anti-discrimination, that was passed immediately into law on April 2, 2015.
Fallout: The state faced much criticism for the bill, likely spurring Hutchinson to seek a modified version. Apple, Yelp and, perhaps most significantly, Arkansas-based super-retailer Wal-Mart all registered public disappointment in HB 1228.
Georgia legislators aimed to turn into law HB 757, which would legalize pastors’ rights to refuse to perform same-sex marriages and allow businesses to deny service to individuals whose lifestyles conflict with their religious beliefs.
Result:Vetoed. Georgia’s legislature approved the bill on March 17, 2016, leaving the matter in the hands of Gov. Nathan Deal. Deal vetoed the bill on March 28, saying he could "find no examples that any of the things this bill seeks to protect us against have ever occurred in Georgia."
Fallout: Reactions to the Georgia legislation have been intense, with the Human Rights Campaign sending a petition to Deal on March 24 urging him not to sign the law, including the signatures of such Hollywood luminaries as Harvey and Bob Weinstein, Aaron Sorkin, Kathleen Kennedy, Ryan Murphy and Diablo Cody. At least 248 film and TV productions were shot in Georgia last year, pumping $1.7 billion into the state, meaning a widespread boycott would be deeply costly for the state.
Disapproval has also been registered from Coca-Cola and Delta, both of whom have headquarters in Atlanta, as well as Google, which also has major offices in the city.
And if the threat from Hollywood weren’t enough, Georgia has also been put on notice by the NFL, which raised a similar specter in Arizona in 2014, saying that passage of the law would take Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, opening in 2017, out of consideration for Super Bowl hosting duties. Further, the College Football Playoff National Championship and SEC, both of whom have arrangements with the new stadium for future events, registered that they would be closely monitoring Georgia’s decision in these legal matters and will be evaluating accordingly.
Indiana looked to pass SB 101, a “religious freedom restoration” bill that gave individuals and companies the right to usurp state laws that conflict with their religious views. Critics of the bill saw it as targeting LGBT individuals, as well as others who may be discriminated against under the guise of religious beliefs.
Result: Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law on March 26, 2015, and repeatedly defended its passage to critics as not being discriminatory, but rather protecting religious freedoms. On April 2, 2015, Pence signed a bill serving as an amendment to SB 101 that looked to provide protections for LGBT customers.
Fallout: Indiana faced widespread criticism for SB 101, spurring Angie’s List to cancel a $40 million expansion in the state and companies such as Apple, Salesforce, Eli Lilly, Nike and NASCAR to register their disapproval. The mayors of San Francisco, Portland, Washington, D.C., and Seattle, as well as the governors of Connecticut, Washington, Vermont and New York, temporarily banned all city- and state-funded travel to Indiana.
A proposed constitutional amendment would create legal protections for religious business owners who refuse to provide services for same-sex weddings.
The legislation would bar the state from penalizing any religious organization -- including churches, corporations, schools and hospitals and their employees -- “on the basis that the organization believes or acts in accordance with a sincere religious belief concerning marriage between two persons of the same sex.”
Result: The bill survived a 37-hour filibuster by Senate Democrats, moving it to the Republican-controlled House. If approved by lawmakers, the proposal would bypass the Democratic governor and go to voters.
Fallout: Top executives from some of the St. Louis area's largest companies have said that the proposed law could have a devastating impact on the state's economy. Gov. Jay Nixon said the resolution could drive away business and workers, as well as cause conventions and sporting events — such as the NCAA basketball regional currently underway in St. Louis — to go elsewhere.
House Bill 1523 would allow public and private businesses to refuse service to gay couples based on the employers' religious beliefs.
The measure's intention is to protect those who believe that marriage should be between one man and one woman, that sexual relations should only take place inside such marriages, and that male and female genders are unchangeable.