ATLANTA — Many business leaders are telling Georgia lawmakers that the controversial religious freedom bill could have billion-dollar consequences.
Channel 2’s Lori Geary went to the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau where some people say if the bill passes, it could cost the convention and hotel industry $4 billion over the next two years.
Supporters of the bill say they're skeptical of the numbers.
The fight over religious freedom at the Georgia Capitol is heating up behind closed doors.
On Friday, the Georgia Senate passed the “First Amendment Defense Act.”
Supporters, including the Faith and Freedom Coalition, say it protects faith-based organizations like adoption agencies from losing state funds if they refuse services to same-sex couples.
“It doesn't matter if you believe in traditional marriage or you believe in nontraditional, you're protected from adverse state action,” says Virginia Galloway, Regional Field Director for Faith and Freedom Coalition.
But the business community is concerned what happened in Indiana could happen in Georgia when companies and major sporting events threatened boycotts over a similar religious freedom bill.
“We could find ourselves in a situation like Indiana, except it's going to be multiplied exponentially,” said Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau President William Pate.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution talked to representatives with the entertainment industry who also issued a warning.
“This very assembly working on this bill has invested billions of taxpayer dollars growing an industry that would leave this state,” said Brian Tolleson, who owns an Atlanta-based digital entertainment company called Bark Bark and works with studios and media companies from New York City to Los Angeles.
“They will boycott coming to shoot anything here,” Tolleson said. “The powers that be in the industry really want to defeat Georgia’s rise as entertainment destination. And we’re handing it to them on a silver platter.”
House Speaker David Ralston says Georgia can't ignore consequences seen in other states but says the state would be different.
“I think we're a lot smarter than they are in Indiana,” Ralston said.
Gov. Nathan Deal weighed in with a warning.
“I don't usually comment on pending legislation, but by far this is not finalized yet,” Deal said.
“I just believe the governor and lieutenant governor have worked so hard to make Georgia the No. 1 state in the country in which to do business. I just can't believe we're going to jeopardize that,” Pate said.
Channel 2 Action News reached out to Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle's office because the religious freedom bill passed out of the state Senate where he presides. There has been no response from his office.
The bill is headed over to the House for consideration.