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Love Wins the Hollywood of the South

Published on Thursday, March 31, 2016, at 2:30 p.m.
by Lindsey Young.

Today, March 28, 2016, marked a major win for the diversity and inclusion movement. Georgia Governor Nathan Deal vetoed the “religious liberty” bill that was causing major controversy across the country. The bill was presented to protect religious leaders from being forced to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies. It also proposed allowing faith-based organizations to deny use of their facilities for events they disagree with and would have exempted them from having to hire any employees whose religious beliefs differ from those of that organization.

Photo courtesy of Jesse Budlong.
Photo courtesy of Jesse Budlong.

The original proposal caused a lot of backlash from businesses that work in the Atlanta market, including several production companies, Fortune 500 companies and the NFL. Companies like Disney and AMC have come to Atlanta recently to film productions such as “The Walking Dead” and “Captain America: Civil War.” Turner Broadcasting is headquartered in Atlanta, and the city is in the running to host a future Super Bowl. In addition, 20 Fortune 500 companies, including three that have headquarters in Atlanta, created a coalition urging Deal to veto the measure.

In response to the bill, many companies threatened to move their business out of the state.

“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 spokesman for Disney said.

AMC, owner of “The Walking Dead,” agreed in a statement to Gov. Deal.

“As a company, AMC Networks believes that discrimination of any kind is reprehensible,” the company said. “We applaud Governor Deal’s leadership in resisting a previous version of this divisive legislation and urge him to reject the current version as well.”

But what does this decision mean for the PR industry?

Public relations has been known for making diversity and inclusion a priority in the progression of the industry. One of The Public Relations Society of America’s (PRSA) key efforts is to incorporate diversity and inclusion into every aspect of the industry. PRSA has designed its mission to “make PRSA more inclusive and welcoming by reaching out to industry professionals of diverse racial backgrounds, ethnicities and sexual orientations and help diversify the industry by supporting minority candidates.”

PR professionals can learn from what is happening in the state of Georgia. Most companies these days put inclusion at the forefront of their values, and they do not take it lightly. As public relations professionals, it is vital that we are able to speak to all audiences and remain inclusive on all levels — not only for ethical reasons, but also to maintain business relationships.

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