Indiana's 'Religious Freedom' Bill Sparks Firestorm Of Controversy

A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis florist shop this week shows its objection to the Religious Freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature. (AP)
A window sticker on a downtown Indianapolis florist shop this week shows its objection to the Religious Freedom bill passed by the Indiana legislature. (AP)

When Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed a bill into law allowing the state's businesses to refuse to serve same-sex couples on religious grounds, he knew the move was a controversial one.

Even so, he probably didn't anticipate the level of vitriol that it would spark, much of it directed at him personally.

On Thursday, in a statement issued immediately after signing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, widely supported by conservative groups but vocally opposed by others, Pence said the bill had been "misunderstood" and that "If I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it."

Almost immediately, however, a #boycottindiana hashtag launched on Twitter. Once social media icon George Takei — the actor of Star Trek fame, who is also gay — weighed in, there was no turning back.

Since then, a stream of critical and sometimes vulgar tweets, Facebook memes, editorial cartoons and even a parody video have been unleashed – many labeling the Hoosier state, its people and/or Gov. Pence as bigoted.

Indiana author John Green tweeted:

Others had their say:

For all the fuss, The Washington Post points out that Indiana is not alone — 19 other states have similar laws.

Even so, before Pence even signed the bill — which was overwhelmingly approved by the GOP legislature — GenCon LLC, a major gaming convention that meets annually in Indianapolis threatened to pull out of the state, as did several high-profile companies.

The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) also said it might cancel its next convention scheduled for Indianapolis in 2017.

The CEO of Salesforce, a $4 billion software company with operations in Indiana, changed its mind about an expansion in the state.

Cummins Engines and drug-maker Eli Lilly and Co. were among others that voiced objections, along with the mayor of Indianapolis.

NCAA President Mark Emmert has also expressed concern as to whether gay and lesbian customers could be turned away in the name of "religious freedom."

"We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees," Emmert said in a statement Thursday afternoon, shortly after the bill was signed.

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