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7 Immediate Examples of Backlash to Indiana's 'Religious Freedom'

7 Immediate Examples of Backlash to Indiana's 'Religious Freedom'


Major businesses and sports organizations are reconsidering their investments in Indiana after the governor signed a so-called license to discriminate bill into law.


It didn't take long for the backlash to begin after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law at a private ceremony today. The response was swift, forceful, and ongoing -- as the statements below demonstrate.

Supporters of the new law -- including the governor -- claim that the RFRA strengthens and protects the free expression of religion, but opponents have consistently blasted the law as a thinly veiled effort to give businesses and individuals a "license to discriminate" against LGBT people, and anyone else who somehow offends a person's sincerely held religious belief.

"The Indiana General Assembly and Governor have sent a dangerous and discriminatory message with this new law," said the Human Rights Campaign's legal director Sarah Warbelow in a statement today. "They've basically said, as long as your religion tells you to, it's OK to discriminate against people despite what the law says. This new law hurts the reputation of Indiana and will have unacceptable implications for LGBT people and other minorities throughout the state. Astoundingly, Indiana representatives ignored the warnings of businesses and fair-minded Hoosiers, and now business owners and corporations are forced to consider other options when looking at states to invest in."

1. SalesforceCancels All Indiana Travel

That's exactly what Salesforce, a $4 billion tech company based in San Francisco which increased its presence in Indiana in 2013, is planning to do now that the RFRA has become law.

The CEO of the company, valued at $4 billion and listed on the prestigious Standard & Poor 500, authored an open letter to Indiana lawmakers urging them to reject the bill last week. After Gov. Pence signed the bill into law, Mike Benioff, CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud Division, said his company has no choice but to "dramatically reduce" its investment in Indiana. In a series of tweets, Benioff, a 50-year-old man married to a woman, announced the company was canceling all of its programs that required employees to customers to travel to Indiana, and encouraged other tech companies to follow suit.

2. Cofounder of Paypal, Yelp Chairman Sees Through the Rhetoric

Tech entrepreneur Max Levchin, who co-founded PayPal, is currently the chairman of Yelp, sits on the Board of Directors for Yahoo!, and is the CEO of consumer finance company Affirm and chairman of reproductive health app Glow, sent a biting tweet this afternoon that flatly rejected supporters' claims that the RFRA won't result in legalized discrimination.

3. NCAA Is 'Concerned' About Final Four

The National College Athletic Association issued a statement on Indiana's new law, expressing concern about the fate of its LGBT athletes and employees during the men's basketball Final Four, slated to take place in Indianapolis next week.

"The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events," said NCAA president Mark Emmert in a statement today. "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."

On Monday, out NBA veteran Jason Collins, the first openly gay man to play in the NBA, asked the Governor whether Collins and those like him would be welcomed in the state during the Final Four, for which Collins is providing commentary.

4. George Takei Calls for a Boycott

The out actor is "outraged that Gov. Pence would sign such a divisive measure into law," said Takei in a Facebook post today. "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."

Takei first threatened a boycott earlier this week, when he joined organizers of the board game convention Gen Con in warning that the world's largest gaming conference would relocate its annual conference -- and its estimated $50 million revenue -- to a more hospitable state, should the RFRA become law.

I am outraged that Gov. Pence would sign such a divisive measure into law. He has made it clear that LGBT couples, like...

Posted by George Takei on Thursday, March 26, 2015

5. LGBT Athletic Association: Take All Sporting Events Out of Indiana

Members of the LGBT Sports Coalition have gone a step farther, calling for all sporting events which can be moved from Indiana to be relocated, according to OutSports.

"While we recognize the impossibility of Indiana-based schools and professional sports teams forgoing home games, we believe any sporting events that can be moved outside the state should be moved," said a statement from the association of organizations individuals dedicated to ending anti-LGBT bias in sports by 2016. "To host a major sporting event in the state, with legitimate venues available elsewhere, would put LGBT athletes, coaches, and fans in harm's way and lend support to the discrimination of LGBT people."

As a result, the LGBT Sports Coalition called on six major sporting events to relocate events, including the National Football League's Scouting Combine, the USA Diving team's 2016 Olympic trials, USA Gymnastics's 2015 P&G Championship, and the NCAA's 2016 Women's Final Four basketball tournament.

6. Gay Football Fan Wants the Big 10 Championship Out of Indianapolis

Echoing the LGBT Sports Coalition's message, a gay former Indiana resident and college football fan has launched a petition calling on the NCAA to relocate its annual Big 10 Championship game, which has been held at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the past several years.

Sean Burke, a gay marketing professional who now lives in Wisconsin, tells The Advocate he and many friends and sports fans will refuse to travel to Indiana for the Big 10 championship game, even if their beloved home teams are playing in the big game. In addition to signing the petition, Burke is asking LGBT fans and allies to speak out on social media using the hashtag #Big10FootballBoycott.

7. Tourism Department Loses Longtime Writer

Erik Deckers is a straight man who has been a working as a travel writer for the state's tourism board's website,, for the past six years. But as soon as Gov. Pence signed the RFRA into law this morning, Deckers resigned from his part-time contract position position at the website owned by the Indiana Office of Tourism Development.

"I've been a travel writer for the State of Indiana for six years, a role I have loved, as it has taken me around to different parts of the state I had never seen, and I've met some outstanding people," wrote Deckers on his blog Thursday. "But after Governor Pence signed SB101 into law today, I decided that I did not want to be a part of the Indiana state government any further, even as a small-time contractor."

"Even now, I believe Indiana is a good place, with good people who have good hearts," continued Deckers. "But, at least today, I don't feel right in inviting people to visit us. Not when some of them are less welcome. Not when there's a chance they'll be told they're not wanted. I can't ask them to come here, so I quit."

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Sunnivie Brydum

Sunnivie is the managing editor of The Advocate, and an award-winning journalist whose passion is covering the politics of equality and elevating the unheard stories of our community. Originally from Colorado, she and her spouse now live in Los Angeles, along with their three fur-children: dogs Luna and Cassie Doodle, and "Meow Button" Tilly.
Sunnivie is the managing editor of The Advocate, and an award-winning journalist whose passion is covering the politics of equality and elevating the unheard stories of our community. Originally from Colorado, she and her spouse now live in Los Angeles, along with their three fur-children: dogs Luna and Cassie Doodle, and "Meow Button" Tilly.