The ‘right to discriminate’ is protected under a new Indiana Law signed Thursday by Governor Mike Pence. The controversial Bill 101, known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, was signed quietly and behind closed doors despite rapidly growing controversy and backlash from Indiana businesses and organizations.
Supporters say RFRA is designed to protect people’s religious beliefs from unnecessary government intrusion. But opponents argue the measure serves as a license to discriminate, particularly against LGBT people, on religious grounds.
In response, a few of the state’s most influential businesses are exercising their right to refuse service–to the state of Indiana. Marc Benioff, Founder and CEO of Indiana-based tech giant Salesforce, said in a Twitter post that he will suspend all policies requiring customers and employees to “travel to Indiana to face discrimination.” He and other leaders in the tech industry released a statement claiming, “The RFRA clearly blurs that line [between church and state] and opens the door to blatant discrimination.” The $40 billion company, with over 12,000 employees and 104,000 customers, represents only a fraction of economic consequences facing Indiana.
Indianapolis-based Angie’s List, a thriving business review and search website, announced Saturday that it will pull out of a pending $40 Million headquarters expansion in the east side of its home city. The project would have meant the creation of 1,000 local jobs but according to Co-Founder and CEO Bill Oesterle, the expansion is “on hold until we fully understand the implications of the freedom restoration act on our employees, both current and future.”
Influential personalities are also speaking out against the new legislation. Former NBA star and ESPN commentator Charles Barkley is calling for the NCAA to relocate its Final Four tournament out of Indianapolis. “Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me,” Barkley said in a statement released through his agent, as quoted by USA Today. “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.” Although the NCAA has decided that it is too late to change plans for this tournament, President Mark Emmert said that the NCAA is “especially concerned” about the possible effects of the law on its student-athletes and employees.
Just as quickly as the bill was passed, new implications of the legislation are rapidly coming to light. Opposition has officially spread coast-to-coast with the Governor of Connecticut banning government-funded travel to the state of Indiana along with the Mayors of Seattle and San Francisco.
— Trendolizer (@Trendolizer) March 29, 2015
Inland Northwest Business Alliance is looking to the efforts of the Indiana State Chamber of Commerce which has opposed the bill based on the fact that “Religious freedom for individual employees is already protected through existing laws.” The state business chamber added the bill to their legislative agenda, noting, “The legislation is unnecessary, intrusive and likely to result in unintended consequences.” INBA will continue to follow this issue and work with local business leaders to develop its own response to Indiana’s new policy.