The Internet has a lot to say about the new “Religious Freedom" law that allows individuals and businesses in Indiana to deny services to LGBT patrons on behalf of their faith. On Friday, a similar law passed in the Arkansas state Senate by a landslide vote. If it passes the house, too, the governor has already promised to sign it into law.
There have been protests in both Indiana and Arkansas, and now numerous businesses, religious organizations, politicians, and celebrities are also speaking out -- both against and for the controversial new laws.
Here’s who’s weighing in and what they have to say:
Tim Cook became the first openly gay CEO of a Fortune 500 company when he came out last year. He has written an op-ed proclaiming that “religious freedom” laws are dangerous, and tweeted to urge Arkansas’s governor to veto their newly proposed bill. He writes, “Our message, to people around the country and around the world, is this: Apple is open. Open to everyone, regardless of where they come from, what they look like, how they worship or who they love. Regardless of what the law might allow in Indiana or Arkansas, we will never tolerate discrimination.”
After Indiana’s law passed, Yelp’s CEO posted an open letter to states considering their own “discrimination laws.” He writes, “[I]t is unconscionable to imagine that Yelp would create, maintain, or expand a significant business presence in any state that encouraged discrimination by businesses against our employees, or consumers at large.”
The Cities of Seattle and San Francisco
San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced that municipal employees are barred from traveling to Indiana for work-related trips. He said, “San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the state of Indiana.” Seattle’s first openly gay mayor Ed Murray plans to bar travel to Indiana for city employees, and says he will ask all city departments to review their contracts to see if the city is doing any business in Indiana.
The NBA, the Pacers, and the NCAA
The NBA released a statement, saying, “The game of basketball is grounded in long established principles of inclusion and mutual respect. We will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome at all NBA and WNBA events in Indiana and elsewhere.” Pacers owner Herb Simon said, “The Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever and Bankers Life Fieldhouse have the strongest possible commitment to inclusion and non-discrimination on any basis. Everyone is always welcome at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That has always been the policy from the very beginning of the Simon family’s involvement and it always will be.”
NCAA President Mark Emmert said it may pull upcoming college tournaments scheduled in the state. In a statement, he said, "The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees.”
Disciples of Christ Church
The Christian Church denomination has used Indianaopolis as its headquarters for nearly 100 years. Last week, they issued a letter stating that they were considering moving their next biennial conference out of Indiana as a result of the new law. The conference usually draws over 6,000 attendees and is expected to generate $5 million in tourism dollars. In their letter, they wrote, “As a Christian church, we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow — one who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all.”
One of the biggest, longest-running gaming conventions in the U.S. threatened to move its annual event out of Indiana. The Gen Con CEO said, “Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.” He also said there were more than 56,000 attendees at the Indiana Convention Center for Gen Con last year.
A Bunch Of Politicians And Celebrities
A Major Pharmaceutical Company
Eli Lilly and Company is a global pharmaceutical company that employs more than 11,000 workers in Indiana. In a statement to ThinkProgress, they wrote, “One of our long-held values is respect for people, and that value factors strongly into our position. We want all our current and future employees to feel welcome where they live. We certainly understand the implications this legislation has on our ability to attract and retain employees. As we recruit, we are searching for top talent all over the world. We need people who will help find cures for such devastating diseases as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Many of those individuals won’t want to come to a state with laws that discriminate.”
A Mysteriously Anonymous Indiana Small Business Owner
Not everyone opposes the law. At least one Indiana restaurant owner, who refused to provide the media with his name or the name of his business, claims that he was turning away gay customers even before the law was passed. On the station RadioNow 100.9, he stated, “Well, I feel okay with it because it’s my place of business, I pay the rent, I’ve built it with all my money and my doing. It’s my place; I can do whatever I want with it. They can have their lifestyle and do their own thing in their own place or with people that want to be with them.”
Indiana Governor Mike Pence
In light of all the backlash, Indiana’s governor has been asked to add legislation that adds protections based on sexual orientation to Indiana’s anti-discrimination laws. He responded, "That's not on my agenda, and that's not been an objective of the people of the state of Indiana. And it doesn't have anything to do with this law.” He also said, "We are not going to change this law.”
Governor Pence also said that Indiana's religious freedom law is like religious freedom laws in 19 other states. However, as ThinkProgress explains, "Every other Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to disputes between a person or entity and a government. Indiana’s is the only law that explicitly applies to disputes between private citizens.* This means it could be used as a cudgel by corporations to justify discrimination against individuals that might otherwise be protected under law. Indiana trial lawyer Matt Anderson, discussing this difference, writes that the Indiana law is 'more broadly written than its federal and state predecessors' and opens up 'the path of least resistance among its species to have a court adjudicate it in a manner that could ultimately be used to discriminate…'"
Indiana Right to Life
The anti-abortion organization has set up a link on its website for visitors to thank Governor Pence and the state representatives for passing the law. The thank you page states, “This morning Governor Mike Pence signed into law Indiana’s historic Religious Freedom Restoration Act, enabling new protections for pro-life persons, businesses and ministries from being forced to support abortion. Please help say 'thank you' to Governor Pence and to the overwhelming majority of state senators and representatives who took [sic] supported our liberty.”
The head of the pro-family, pro-church, influential lobbying group was among the few invited to attend the private signing of Indiana’s bill into law. On their website, they state, "Churches, Christian businesses and individuals deserve protection from those who support homosexual marriages and those who support government recognition and approval of gender identity (men who dress as women). SB 101 will help provide the protection!"
Whichever side these businesses and individuals stand on, it’s interesting to see how their values and beliefs are intersecting with the economies in Indiana and Arkansas. If businesses are boycotting entire states, that is a lot of money that’s not coming in, and jobs that aren’t being created.
If bills like this keep popping up, what impact do you think they will have on young people in these states? Leave your thoughts in the comments.