Indiana has done it again. Time and again, its conservative politicians have made me ashamed that I was born and raised in that state, and thankful that I escaped. My support for Paul Henry Gingerich gave me a personal outlet for atonement—but the case seems not to have made much of a difference on the redemption of the place. Years ago I realized the irony that there are no Indians in Indiana. This is just the latest insult. I’m finally over it.
Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ bill sparks firestorm of controversy
When Indiana’s Republican Governer Mike Pence signed a bill into law allowing the state’s businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples on religious grounds, he knew the move was a controversial one.
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.
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 Governor Pence as bigoted.
And today, (NPR) 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.”
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 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 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.”
Scott Neuman works as a Digital News writer and editor, handling breaking news and feature stories for NPR.org.
PS: Following the protests and controversy, Governor Pence has immediately begun backpedaling. Pence said he’ll look at a bill to clarify the law’s intent if lawmakers send him one. He also told the Indianapolis Star on Saturday that he was in discussions with legislative leaders over the weekend and expects a clarification bill to be introduced in the coming week.
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