Representative defends discriminatory film bill

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A new bill could deny tax credits to shows and movies that feature gay characters, and the representative who proposed it is feeling the pressure.

StephenPrecourt_931402264.jpgState Rep. Stephen Precourt (R-Orlando) introduced a $75 million incentive package to attract movie studios to film in Florida. The proposal would increase current tax credits from 2-5% of production costs for shows considered “family friendly,” and is coming under fire for its discriminatory nature. It lists a number of factors that would disqualify productions, including depicting “nontraditional family values.” However, the definition of those values is up for debate and it’s unclear whether that particular language will make it through the state version of the bill.

The House Development Policy Committee approved the bill (HB 697) unanimously last week, as part of a promise to create jobs.

Precourt says he’s not targeting the LGBT community, but when asked if shows with gay characters should get the tax credit, he told the Palm Beach Post, “That would not be the kind of thing I’d say that we want to invest public dollars in.” He also said to “think of it like Mayberry,” saying his goal is to promote movies that depict life in the 1950s and 1960s.

On March 9, Precourt followed-up with a new statement, saying it’s not required for the overall program “to be family friendly.”

“Our intent is to simply clarify that language and provide an increase to 5%,” he said. “This small incentive is geared toward productions defined loosely as ‘G’ rated, or suitable for an audience as young as 5 years old.”

Florida’s governor weighed in on the issue.

“Let me define it in the positive,” Gov. Charlie Crist told the Palm Beach Post. “A traditional family is a marriage between a man and a woman. That’s traditional.”

According to City-Data.com, more than one-third of Florida children are being raised in single-parent families, and that doesn’t include children being raised by extended family, children in foster care or LGBT families.

“Marginalizing single-parent families, gay families and other non-traditional families by instituting 1950s-style movie censorship does nothing to support real-life families or help Florida’s struggling economy,” said Ted Howard, executive director for Florida Together.

He said Florida Together will be working to get the language changed.

“If that does not resolve the problem, our community and organizations will need to work together to draw attention and opposition to the problematic language in this bill,” said Howard.

The mission statement for the Florida Film and Entertainment Council contrasts with the language of the bill. It states their goal is “to provide a broad and consistent base of industry related demographic, economic, and informational support to the Office of Film Commissioner” and “to be inclusive and work with special communities, minorities and diverse organizations in order to develop innovative ways of addressing their unique needs and challenges.”

Openly gay independent filmmaker Michael McWhorter, who lives in South Florida, has a sarcastic response to the bill, saying “Everyone knows homosexuality has no place in the arts.”

McWhorter has begun a petition against the bill on his web site which he plans to send to all of the State Representatives.

Not all Republicans agree with Precourt.

“I’m all for tax breaks, but it’s simply unfair to give a tax break to a production company that’s segregating their audience,” said Norm Gentry, an Orlando Log Cabin Republican. “If the intention of the tax break is to generate jobs and revenue, it shouldn’t be limited.”

There is concern the language will chase away productions that would have otherwise considered Florida as a potential filming location. The Partridge Family, Scarface, Miami Vice and Nip/Tuck—all filmed in Florida—would not have qualified for the tax credit under the bill’s current language. |

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