by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the so-called 'Religious Freedom Restoration Act' into law on March 26.
The new law allows Indiana businesses to discriminate against LGBT people in employment and provision of services if they claim a religious motivation for their anti-Gay actions.
Pence was surrounded by ministers, monks, nuns, and at least one Chassidic rabbi as he signed the legislation. Later he issued a statement claiming he was not motivated by bigotry.
'Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith,' Pence said in a statement.
'The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action. One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.'
While Pence tried his best to portray the law as something other than naked anti-Gay bigotry, his endorsement of the measure touched off a firestorm of protest.
George Takei calls for boycott
Even before Pence signed his name to the document, actor George Takei called for a total boycott of the state of Indiana.
'I am outraged that Gov. Pence would sign such a divisive measure into law,' Takei said in a statement.
'He has made it clear that LGBT couples, like Brad and me, are now unwelcome in his state. 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. It is a sad day for the Hoosier state, and indeed for the many good people of Indiana, for whom this law now stands as a terrible blight upon that state's reputation.'
In a Facebook post prior to the signing, Takei noted that 'This bill is strikingly similar to one proposed - and vetoed due to public outcry - in Arizona. Such laws harken back to a time where our society was divided, and people of color were banned from white establishments. That is not our nation any longer, and those are not our values.'
Corporations pull out
Immediately after Pence signed the bill, Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff Tweeted 'Today we are cancelling all programs that require our employees/customers to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.'
Salesforce is a $40 billion computer-based customer relations company headquartered in San Francisco.
Gen Con, a computer gaming convention, also threatened to pull out of its annual event in Indianapolis. The event is estimated to generate more than $50 million in business revenue.
'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,' Gen Con CEO Adrian Swartout wrote in a letter to Pence.
'Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds.
'We are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all, and the wide-ranging diversity of our attendees has become a key element to the success and growth of our convention.'
The NCAA, the governing body of college sports, also said it would 're-evaluate its relationship' with Indiana.
'The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events,' NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement.
'We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.'
Church to cancel 2017 convention
Although Indiana's new anti-Gay law is billed as a 'religious freedom' measure, one major Christian denomination said it would cancel its 2017 convention, scheduled to be held in Indianapolis.
The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) said in a letter to Pence that they would switch to a different city if he signed the bill into law.
'Our perspective is that hate and bigotry wrapped in religious freedom is still hate and bigotry,' Todd Adams, the associate general minister and vice president of the Indianapolis-based denomination, told The Indianapolis Star.
Adams said the Disciples of Christ would instead seek a host city that is 'hospitable and welcome to all of our attendees.'
In its letter to Pence, the church said it is inclusive of different races, ethnicities, ages, genders, and sexual orientations.
'As a Christian church,' it wrote, 'we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow - one who sat at (the) table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord's Table.'
The letter was signed by the denomination's General Minister and President, Sharon E. Watkins, Division of Overseas Ministries, Julia Brown Karimu, and Disciples Home Missions President, Ronald J. Degges.
The Disciples of Christ have held their annual convention in Indianapolis three times since 1989. Adams said he expected up to 8,000 people to attend in 2017. The estimated economic impact would be about $5.9 million, according to VisitIndy, the Indianapolis tourism bureau.
Indianapolis mayor condemns bill
The Republican mayor of Indianapolis, Greg Ballard, is also unhappy with the new law.
'Indianapolis strives to be a welcoming place that attracts businesses, conventions, visitors and residents,' he said in a statement. 'We are a diverse city, and I want everyone who visits and lives in Indy to feel comfortable here.'
Meanwhile, two big names in Indiana Republican political circles are staying silent on the law. Spokespeople for former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and former U.S. Senator Richard Lugar said their clients declined to comment on the measure.
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