Opponents Of Indiana's Religious Freedom Law Create A Wave Of Backlash That Gov. Mike Pence Did Not Expect
ICYMI, under Indiana's massively controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), businesses in the state will be able to refuse service to gay people due to "religious beliefs" from July onwards, when the law goes into effect. Since signing the legislation on Thursday that basically legalizes discrimination against Indiana's LGBT community, Gov. Mike Pence has faced an intense, unyielding storm of criticism that he has conceded he "can't account for" as the governor and his team scramble to contain the damage.
The major backlash is unlike anything the 19 other states that have similar "religious freedom" laws have seen — though critics say that sexual orientation is not a protected class in Indiana, thereby leaving the group open to discrimination. Immediately after Pence signed the bill into law on Thursday, resident Internet powerhouse George Takei called for a boycott of the state to show just how intolerable Indiana's intolerance was. Takei — who himself came out as gay in 2005 and has been with his now-husband for close to three decades — said on his Facebook page:
The notion that this bill was not driven by animus against our community is belied by the record and frankly insulting. I will join many in demanding that socially responsible companies withdraw their business, conferences and support from his state and that LGBTs and our friends and supporters refuse to visit or do business with Indiana.
And the Internet force that is the users of Twitter sent the hashtag #BoycottIndiana viral all weekend into Monday, with average Americans and public figures both voicing their anger at the the RFRA and Pence.
It's not merely citizens who are responding; others in positions of authority are doing the same, potentially hitting the state where it actually hurts. A number of entities have threatened to boycott Indiana, taking away the precious investments that contribute to the state's economy — among them, Angie's List withdrew its campus expansion proposal, Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman wrote that his company would not expand to any state that endorsed LGBT discrimination, and gamer convention Gen Con is also contemplating moving its event out of Indiana. On Friday, Apple's openly gay CEO Tim Cook joined the chorus of business leaders opposing the RFRA.
To top it all off, the entire state of Connecticut plans to boycott Indiana, after Gov. Dannel Malloy announced Monday that he will sign an executive order banning state-funded travel to the Hoosier state, following examples of the cities of Seattle and San Francisco, who have done the same.
In Indiana, nine corporate bigwigs called on Pence to add changes to the bill so that it would not allow discrimination against the LGBT community. Clearly, the RFRA does not represent the opinions of all the people in Indiana, but if Pence does not heed the tide and continues on this path alongside the handful of conservatives, Hoosiers might be the ones bearing the brunt of the backlash.