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.
As a Hoosier, I'm deeply saddened and embarrassed. A government exists to protect its citizens; instead, it is legalizing their oppression.— John Green (@johngreen) March 26, 2015
New religion! You have to give me money but I don't have to provide service. Drop box at the door. Cash only. It's the law ya'll. #RFRA— JoanofDarkKnits (@JoanofDarkKnits) March 26, 2015
NCAA Is Not Pleased With New Anti-Gay Law In State Hosting Final Four- will they refuse gay fans into games?!? http://t.co/TsQW5lZPmT— Martina Navratilova (@Martina) March 26, 2015
Copyright NPR. View this article on npr.org.