The Growing Backlash Against Indiana’s New LGBT Discrimination Law


In the wake of Gov. Mike Pence (R-IN) signing a law that essentially allows discrimination against gay and lesbian people in the state, companies are starting to consider pulling their business from the state.

Though Pence has tried to insist that the law is about “religious liberty” and not discrimination against LGBT discrimination in the state, that doesn’t seem to wash with many in the state — including the Chamber of Commerce, which has said the law will bring unwanted attention to the state. Many high-profile companies and entities that host major events in the state are starting to reconsider their business.

Gov. Pence later defended the law on Sunday, but wouldn’t answer whether the law could be used to discriminate against LGBT people. Republican leaders on Monday held a press conference where they pledged to pass a “clarification” to the law to emphasize that it shouldn’t be used to discriminate.

In a front-page editorial on Tuesday, the Indy Star pleaded with the state’s government to “fix this now.”

“Only bold action — action that sends an unmistakable message to the world that our state will not tolerate discrimination against any of its citizens — will be enough to reverse the damage,” the editorial urges. “Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.”


NASCAR, which is a prominent cultural contributor to the state — the infamous Indianapolis 500 takes place there every year — also lined up to oppose the religious liberty law as written. “NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race,” the statement said.

Association of Flight Attendants

The Association of Flight Attendants issued a statement decrying the law. “We promote the fundamental principle of equality, upon which our country was founded, because it makes all of us better. The scourge of discrimination is a tactic of intimidation, which will spread unless we stand relentlessly for freedom. Liberty and Justice for all,” said AFA International President Sara Nelson.

Gap Inc. and Levi Strauss & Co.

The clothing retailer, which was ahead of the curve in raising its minimum wage to $10 an hour last year, released a statement that they want to remain an inclusive organization. They partnered with denim manufacturer Levi Strauss.


“These new laws and legislation, that allow people and businesses to deny service to people based on their sexual orientation, turn back the clock on equality and foster a culture of intolerance,” a blog post on Gap’s website said. “Discriminatory laws are unquestionably bad for business, but more importantly, they are fundamentally wrong. They must be stopped.”

Indianapolis’ own mayor issued an executive order on Monday clarifying that discrimination wasn’t allowed in the city under the religious liberty law.


The hotel chain’s CEO Arne Sorenson said during a speech, “The legislation in Indiana — and there are some bills being considered in other states — is just pure idiocy from a business perspective, and it is that. The notion that you can tell businesses somehow that they are free to discriminate against people based on who they are is madness.”


The car manufacturer, which plans to open a new plant in Indiana later this year, released a statement disapproving of the law on Monday.


“While we recognize that the voters in each State elect their own legislature to decide that State’s laws, we at Subaru do not agree with any legislation that allows for discrimination, or any behavior or act that promotes any form of discrimination. Furthermore, we do not allow discrimination in our own operations, including our operations in the state of Indiana. We will certainly continue to take the issue of non-discrimination into consideration as part of our decision-making processes,” Michael McHale, director of corporate communications for Subaru of America, Inc., said to the editor of Car Reports.

The state of Washington

Governor Jay Inslee (D-WA) announced on Twitter that his state would be banning taxpayer-funded travel to the state of Indiana.

Nick Offerman & Megan Mullally

Comedians Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally announced that they would be canceling their Summer of 60 tour in Indiana this May, and would be donating all proceeds from Offerman’s appearance at Indiana University on Wednesday to the Human Rights Campaign.


The social media company Twitter expressed disappointment with Indiana’s law on Monday.

San Francisco State University

San Francisco State University joined several other Indiana-based colleges in objecting to the religious liberty law, but too it one step further — banning any and all travel in the state, effective on Monday.


“It is unconscionable for this great University to spend its resources in a state that attempts to legislate discrimination of any kind,” San Francisco State University President Leslie E. Wong said, according to the Huffington Post. “I am informing the campus community that no San Francisco State University funds from any source — general funds or auxiliary — will be used to support employee or student travel to Indiana.”


The rock band announced on Monday that it canceled its upcoming concert in Indianapolis, originally scheduled for May 7, according to the Huffington Post.


The labor group has pledged to move its October women’s conference from Indianapolis “as a direct result of Gov. Mike Pence last week signing into law a bill that legalizes discrimination,” according to a statement emailed on Monday.

“This un-American law allowing businesses to refuse service to gay and lesbian customers sets Indiana and our nation back decades in the struggle for civil rights. It is an embarrassment and cannot be tolerated,” said AFSCME Pres. Lee Saunders.

The state of Connecticut

Gov. Dan Malloy (D) said that he would sign an executive order banning taxpayer-funded travel for Connecticut employees to the state of Indiana following the passage of the state’s new religious liberty law.

HT: TPMAccenture

Management consulting firm Accenture, which has offices in Indianapolis, tweeted that they disapproved of discrimination.

Indiana, DePaw and Butler Universities

Presidents of the state’s three major universities issued a statement opposing the state’s new law on Sunday.

“While I have read a variety of opinions and rationale for RFRA, it strikes me as ill-conceived legislation at best, and I fear that some of those who advanced it have allowed their personal or political agendas to supersede the best interests of the State of Indiana and its people,” Butler President James Danko said. “No matter your opinion of the law, it is hard to argue with the fact it has done significant damage to our state.”

Indiana University president Michael A. McRobbie said, “The damage already done to Indiana’s reputation is such that all public officials and public institutions in our state need to reaffirm our absolute commitment to the Hoosier values of fair treatment and non-discrimination.”

The City Of Seattle

Seattle Mayor Ed Murray plans to sign an executive order this week banning all publicly funded travel for city employees to the state of Indiana. “Laws that say you can discriminate have no place in this country,” Murray told reporters on Saturday.

NBA and the Pacers

The NBA, which has struggled with scandals over racism in the last couple years, released a statement implying disapproval of Indiana’s religious freedom law. “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,” the statement read.

“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,” Pacers owner Herb Simon said.

Angie’s List

On Saturday, Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle said the company would halt an expansion in Indianapolis that was scheduled to break ground in the days following after the signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. “We are putting the ‘Ford Building Project’ on hold until we fully understand the implications of the freedom restoration act on our employees, both current and future,” Oesterle said.

“Angie’s List is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents,” he said, and the company is evaluating alternatives for a headquarters expansion in other locations.


Tim Cook, the openly gay CEO of the tech giant Apple, tweeted on Friday that he was “deeply disappointed” in Indiana’s law. He urged Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) to veto similar legislation making its way through the legislature.


Following the signing of the law, the crowd-sourcing review site released a statement saying, “it 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.”

Yelp also threatened to boycott Arizona when it was considering passing similar legislation last year, and mentioned that it would have a similar position on Arkansas if it passes legislation that it is debating that would enable discrimination.


“Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination,” Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted, pointing to a CNN story in which it said that it would halt all efforts to expand to the state.

The Salesforce decision comes after a group of tech-based businesses sent a letter threatening to halt business in the state if the bill became law. “Technology professionals are by their nature very progressive, and backward-looking legislation such as the RFRA will make the state of Indiana a less appealing place to live and work,” the letter said.

The City of San Francisco

San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee announced that municipal employees are barred from traveling to the state for work-related trips. “San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the state of Indiana,” Lee said.


The college athletic association said it was “especially concerned” about the new law, and may pull upcoming college tournaments scheduled in the state.

Sports commentator and former NBA star Charles Barkley encouraged the NCAA to cancel upcoming Final Four tournament games in the state. “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.”

Former Indiana Pacers guard Reggie Miller also objected to the law, saying “I’ve never been big into politics but I’m very disappointed in my adopted home state of Indiana … I’ve always been about the inclusion for all, no matter your skin color, gender or sexual preference … We are all the same people, beautiful creatures,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) even offered to host the tournament games in his state. “@NCAA if you’re looking for a new place to hold 2021 #FinalFour — NY has plenty of great venues that don’t discriminate,” he tweeted.

Eli Lilly and Company

The global drug giant, which employs more than 11,000 workers in the state, called the law “bad for business.” The company is Indiana-based, and unlikely to move, but they released a statement to ThinkProgress that indicated their disappointment in the law.

“Discriminatory legislation is bad for Indiana and for business. That’s one key reason we worked with the Indiana Chamber and other businesses in an attempt to defeat the legislation,” Eli Lilly and Company spokeswoman Janice Chavers said via email. “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.”

Disciples of Christ

The entire Christian denomination sent a letter saying that “…The recent passage in the state legislature of the RFRA bill is distressing to us. It is causing us to reconsider our decision to hold our 2017 gathering in Indianapolis.”

Gen Con

The comics and gaming convention threatened to move its annual event out of Indiana over the law. “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,” wrote Gen Con’s Chief Executive Adrian Swartout.

White House

On Friday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said, “I have seen that there are a number of private businesses and nonprofit organizations that have said that the signing of this law prompts them to reconsider doing business in the state of Indiana. All those business and some of those who are considering having conventions in Indiana have raised concerns about whether all of their employees can count on being treated fairly in Indiana.”

“I think that is a testament to the kind of reaction I think a lot of people all across the country had, which is that the signing of the bill doesn’t seem like it’s a step in the direction of equality and justice and liberty for all Americans,” he said. “Again, that’s not just the view of the administration, I know that’s the view of the Republican mayor of Indianapolis and a whole host of nonprofit and private sector companies who have legitimate concerns about the impact of this legislation.”

Celebrities and Politicians

High-profile politicians and celebrities have also spoken out against the law. Pop star Miley Cyrus called Pence an “asshole” in an Instagram post over the law.

Takei also wrote an opinion piece for MSNBC, saying, “I have called for a boycott of Indiana by companies, conventions and tourists, not only to send a clear message to Indiana, but also to help stop the further erosion of our core civil values in other parts of this country.”


Updated list of entities that have released statements against the law.