Backlash Over Discriminatory Indiana Law Forces Governor to Clarify
Last week I wrote an article about gaming convention Gen Con threatening to take their expo elsewhere if Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed Senate Bill 101 into law. Gov Pence appeared unphased by the threat of losing big business, quietly signing the controversial bill into law last Thursday. Now three states have joined a list of notable celebrities, politicians, and corporate execs speaking out against the governor’s decision by banning state-funded travel to the state. These actions have resulted in Pence’s announcement that he will work this week to clarify the law so that it does not legalize discrimination.
The bill, which becomes effective July 1, 2015, would prevent individuals in the state from being forced by government entities to violate their religious beliefs. Contention has spawned from critics saying the bill will extend protection to businesses to legally discriminate against LGBT patrons by refusing them service. In a press conference this morning the governor addressed critics, announcing that he will work to fix the law by asking the state assembly to clarify that businesses do not have the right to deny service to anyone; he has no plans to make the state legislation disappear.
When news surfaced that Pence had privately signed the bill, it didn’t take long for a slew of celebrities and public officials to begin voicing their outrage via social media.
Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law and calling on Arkansas Gov. to veto the similar #HB1228.
— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 27, 2015
When will conservatives like Mike Pence figure out discriminating against #lgbt under the guise of faith is REALLY bad politics?
— Montel Williams (@Montel_Williams) March 26, 2015
Yesterday, states began taking action against the “anti-gay” bill by banning state-funded travel to Indiana. Connecticut became the first state to boycott Indiana over its Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) when Governor Dan Malloy signed an executive order barring state-funded travel to the state. Malloy announced his decision with the following tweets:
When new laws turn back the clock on progress, we can’t sit idly by. We are sending a message that discrimination won’t be tolerated. -DM
— Governor Dan Malloy (@GovMalloyOffice) March 30, 2015
Two other cities, San Francisco and Seattle, joined Connecticut by imposing similar travel bans in response to the bill. A list of businesses, following in the steps of Gen Con, have also begun to reconsider doing business with the state. Some notable opposition includes Angie’s List, which decided to halt a campus-expansion project in Indianapolis, and $4 billion software corporation Salesforce, whose CEO announced plans to “dramatically reduce our investment” in the state. PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, who also opposes the law, sent a message to his corporate peers telling CNN:
I’m asking my fellow CEOs to look at how they’re thinking about their relationship with the state and evaluate it in terms of the legislation that’s getting signed into law.
Indiana is hardly the first state to introduce RFRA laws; there are currently 20 states that have done so. However, Indiana’s law is “substantially different” according to the Huffington Post, which writes:
While other state RFRAs apply to disputes between a person and a government, Indiana’s law goes further and applies to disputes between private citizens. That means, for example, a business owner could use the law to justify discrimination against customers who might otherwise be protected under law.
The publicity from the bill has cast a negative light on the state, but a coalition of independent merchants in Indiana have joined a new campaign showing support for the LGBT community called Open For Service. Participating companies want customers to know that the bill won’t change the way they do business. The campaign celebrates businesses that oppose discrimination of any type, allowing companies to register with them and order stickers to be displayed in shop windows that read “this business serves everyone.”
The combination of this campaign with the current efforts of celebrities, politicians, and big CEOs are what most likely caused Pence to announce that his office will finally take action. No word yet on what will happen to the religious freedom law if the assembly fails to produce Pence’s requested joint anti-discrimination law this week, but at least the governor is finally attempting, albeit very poorly, to assure citizens that Indiana will be welcome to all.