Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' Bill Sparks Firestorm Of Controversy
Updated at 4:50 p.m. ET
When Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law allowing the state's businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples based on religious grounds, he knew the move was a controversial one.
Even so, he probably didn't anticipate the level of vitriol that it would spark, much of it directed at him personally.
On Thursday, in a statement issued immediately after signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, widely supported by conservative groups but vocally opposed by others, Pence said the bill had been "misunderstood" and that "If I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it."
Almost immediately, however, a #boycottindiana hashtag launched on Twitter. Once social media icon George Takei — the actor of Star Trek fame, who is also gay — weighed in, there was no turning back.
Join me to #BoycottIndiana . Show Gov. #Pence we won't stand for bigotry in the name of religion.— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) March 27, 2015
Since then, a stream of critical and sometimes vulgar tweets, Facebook memes, editorial cartoons and even a parody video have been unleashed – many labeling the Hoosier state, its people and/or Gov. Pence as bigoted.
And today, member station WFYI reports that an estimated 3,000 people were gathered outside the Indiana Statehouse to protest the law, some carrying signs reading "no hate in our state."
Indiana author John Green tweeted:
Others had their say, too:
Dear Indiana,— Cole Ledford (@ColeLedford11) March 28, 2015
We already had this conversation. You dont get to choose who sits at the lunch counter.#BoycottIndiana pic.twitter.com/H1UJQsABC5
For all the fuss, The Washington Post points out that Indiana is not alone — 19 other states have similar laws.
Even so, before Pence signed the bill — which was overwhelmingly approved by the GOP legislature — GenCon LLC, a major gaming convention that meets annually in Indianapolis threatened to pull out of the state, as did several high-profile companies.
Angie's List will withdraw campus expansion proposal due to passage of #RFRA http://t.co/N4s7mFhhl6— Angi (@angi_home) March 28, 2015
Indianapolis-based Angie's List announced today that it would put a $40 million dollar expansion and 1,000 new jobs on hold over the law.
"Angie's List is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents," CEO Bill Oesterle said.
The CEO of Salesforce, a $4 billion software company with operations in Indiana, changed its mind about an expansion in the state.
Cummins, an engine manufacturer and drug-maker Eli Lilly and Co. were among others that voiced objections, along with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, who like Pence, is a Republican.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) also said it might cancel its next convention scheduled for Indianapolis in 2017.
NCAA Is Not Pleased With New Anti-Gay Law In State Hosting Final Four- will they refuse gay fans into games?!? http://t.co/TsQW5lZPmT— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) March 26, 2015
NCAA President Mark Emmert has also expressed concern as to whether gay and lesbian customers could be turned away in the name of "religious freedom."
"We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees," Emmert said in a statement Thursday afternoon, shortly after the bill was signed.
Former NBA star Charles Barkley added his voice to the debate.
"Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me," he said. "As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states' cities."
Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.