Indiana faces mounting outrage and boycotts over anti-gay law


Indianapolis, the capital and most populous city of Indiana

The US state of Indiana is under siege from businesses, politicians and human rights groups over its new anti-gay “religious freedom” law.

The legislation will allow individuals and companies to refuse to serve LGBT people if they feel it is against their religious beliefs. Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who signed the law, has insisted that it is not intended to discriminate against anyone.

On Monday, the CEOs of nine corporations based in Indiana, including pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly, wrote to Pence stating their opposition to the law.

“Regardless of the original intention of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, we are deeply concerned about the impact it is having on our employees and on the reputation of our state,” said the CEOs.

They called on Pence to pass a new law “to ensure that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act will not sanction or encourage discrimination against any residents or visitors to our state by anyone.”

These companies join Walmart, Yelp and Apple in condemning the legislation. Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote in The Washington Post on Sunday about the law and similar laws being considered in other states.

He warned that, “There’s something very dangerous happening in states across the country.”

Cook said: “These bills rationalise injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.

“The days of segregation and discrimination marked by ‘Whites Only’ signs on shop doors, water fountains and restrooms must remain deep in our past. We must never return to any semblance of that time.”

He added: “This isn’t a political issue. It isn’t a religious issue. This is about how we treat each other as human beings. Opposing discrimination takes courage. With the lives and dignity of so many people at stake, it’s time for all of us to be courageous.”

On Tuesday, the CEOs of Gap Inc and Levi Strauss & Co issued a statement calling on retail and clothing companies to speak out against the Indiana Law and other anti-LGBT bills in the US.

Social media leader Twitter also tweeted: “We’re disappointed to see state bills that enshrine discrimination. These bills are unjust and bad for business. We support #EqualityForAll.”

Others who have spoken out against the Indiana law include a host of celebrities as well as House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

“History will not look kindly on this new Indiana state law, couched under claims of religious freedom, which turns back the clock on gains Americans have made together to ensure equal treatment, equal access, and equal rights for all citizens,” Pelosi said.

The governor of Connecticut and the mayors of Seattle and San Francisco have all announced bans on official state or city-funded travel to Indiana in response to the law.

The scale of the backlash appears to have taken Republican leaders in Indiana by surprise and there are now moves to draft a new law that may diminish or remove the discriminatory impact of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

According to the ACLU, the Indiana law is one of 24 introduced in 15 states this year that could allow someone to use their religious beliefs to discriminate. Activists have called on Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson to veto such a bill being sent to his desk for his signature.

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