Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law on March 25, 2015. However, Indiana has since suffered much backlash against the new law. According to Pence the law did not permit discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals. He said that the law was designed to ensure that the “highest level of scrutiny in our state courts in matters of government action that intrude upon the religious liberty of Hoosiers” was taken. Pence added that he would not continue to patronize a business if he knew they had discriminated against LGBT people.
As unintentional as Pence’s lack of foresight may have been, social media, businesses and groups have voiced their displeasure with the signing of the RFRA. Large numbers have opted to boycott the state entirely. The Boycott Indiana hashtag has recently trended on Twitter. Gen Con, the biggest gaming convention in the world and Indianapolis’s largest convention, is considering not renewing its contract when it expires in 2020. The Disciples of Christ have committed as of March 31 to seek a new venue for their 2017 Gen. assembly which was to be held in Indianapolis. The AFSCME women’s conference scheduled for October in Indianapolis will be moved to another state. “As of now we’ve heard from 6 to 8 conventions who are concerned. They have questions.” remarked Chris Gahl of the state’s official tourism site, Visit Indy.
Humorist Rick Offerman and indie rock band Wilco have canceled tour dates in Indiana. Twitter user Dylan Donnie-Duke wrote:
@Nick_Offerman as an embarrassed Hoosier, I appreciate it. @GovPenceIN as a guy who got tix to this show as a bday gift, this sux.
In addition to suffering political backlash and loss of tourism dollars, Indiana’s new law may cost it a few business partners. The online directory Angie’s List announced it would no longer expand it’s Indianapolis campus as planned. The cloud computing company Salesforce has also decided to cancel any program which would require any customer or employee to travel to the state where they might face discrimination. The governors of Connecticut, New York, and Washington states have signed orders prohibiting or severely limiting state-funded travel to the Hoosier state. The mayors of Portland and the District of Columbia have also prohibited official travel to there. Many individuals and organizations have declared themselves boycotters as well, registering their dismay on social media platforms, but have not yet cancelled any appearances or events.
IThere is also an anti-RFRA campaign among some of the states businesses. Those that agree to serve all people can get a “this business serves everyone” sticker to put in their windows and can also be listed in an online directory. The cost to participate is $10. The Open for Business campaign was started by Indianapolis resident Josh Driver.
On March 30, Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard (R) held a press conference about his feelings concerning the RFRA. Ballard plans to issue an executive order that any business must follow the city’s human rights ordinance, which protects LGBT people. He also called on the state to add protections for sexual orientation into it’s civil rights law.
Due to the uproar, Pence is seeking a “fix”or modification that will clarify that the RFRA does not allow discrimination against LGBT people. However, the state’s Democrats are calling for a full repeal. Pence wants the new language on his desk this week.
Despite the economic loss the Hoosier state may now face, the Arkansas legislature recently passed a very similar bill. It remains to be seen if Arkansas will suffer as much political blacklash as Indiana.
By Martina Robinson
Photo by Justin Day – Creativecommons Flickr License