Indiana Law Denounced as Invitation to Discriminate
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Gov. Mike Pence Signed the Freedom of Religion Restoration Act into Law

Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana, a Republican who has not ruled out a 2016 presidential run, defended the law as an overdue protection when "many feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action."

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Workers preparing the court at the Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for the N.C.A.A.

Final Four basketball games. The N.C.A.A. has expressed dismay over the new law on gay couples.

A similar furor was building in Arkansas on Friday as the State Senate adopted a version of the bill that has inflamed the state's corporate giants, like Walmart, and high-tech companies the state is wooing. The laws are modeled on a federal religious protection measure adopted in 1993 and subsequently passed by 20 states. But the latest push, and the vehement responses it has unleashed, reflect new passions surrounding the spread of same-sex marriage, with many conservatives invoking "religious freedom" as their last line of defense. Indiana's ban on same-sex marriage was overturned by federal courts last year, giving new energy to the campaign for the religious protection bill signed Thursday by Mr. Pence. Advocates of equal rights for gays said the laws pose a threat of abetting discrimination, especially from business owners who object to participating in same-sex weddings.

"The possible discriminatory effects are real," said Sarah Warbelow, legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group. At the same time, she said, the public understands that the debate over these laws is really about "tolerance towards L.G.B.T. people." The Indiana law opens the door for individuals or companies to refuse actions that impose a "substantial burden" on their religious beliefs. If that refusal is challenged in court, a judge must balance the religious burden with the state's "compelling interest" in preventing discrimination, according to the law.

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Eric Miller, who lobbied for Indiana's new law as executive director of the group Advance America, said it could help Christian bakers, florists and photographers avoid punishment for "refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage," protect Christian businesses that refuse "to allow a man to use the women's restroom," and insulate churches that refuse to allow their premises to be used for same-sex weddings. 

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Some Business Show Their Support for Love Instead of Using this Law to Discriminate

Some legal experts say the potential reach of the Indiana law, and many like it, has been exaggerated by opponents. "The hysteria over this law is so unjustified," said Douglas Laycock, a law professor at the University of Virginia and a prominent defender of so-called religious freedom laws. "It's not about discriminating against gays in general or across the board," he said of the Indiana law. "It's about not being involved in a ceremony that you believe is inherently religious." Mr. Pence, at a news conference at the Capitol after he signed the bill, adamantly denied that it is intended to permit discrimination. "If I thought it legalized discrimination in any way," he said, "I would have vetoed it." As legal experts debated the law's impact, its passage provoked an unusually swift and broad outcry.

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Apple:  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.

Apple is open for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana's new law and calling on Arkansas Gov. to veto the similar #HB1228.

— Tim Cook (@tim_cook) March 27, 2015

Yelp: 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.

Salesforce: "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.

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

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.


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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."

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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. Sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn't discriminate against ppl bc of who they love #LGBT http://t.co/mDhpS18oEH

Hillary Clinton (@HillaryClinton) March 27, 2015

Indiana are you also going to allow Christian establishments to ban Jews from coming in? Or Vice Versa? Religious freedom??? #OUTRAGE

 Ashton Kutcher (@aplusk) March 27, 2015

On the phone w/@united so long I forgot what year it was, then saw the law Indiana Gov.Pence just signed & remembered...It's 1950 #NOHATE

Audra McDonald (@AudraEqualityMc) March 26, 2015

Outraged over Indiana Freedom to Discriminate law, signed today. LGBTs aren't 2nd class citizens. #BoycottIndiana #Pence

George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) March 26, 2015

Given what happened in Indiana, it's time for this #ThrowbackThursday, along with what I tweeted about 4 years ago... pic.twitter.com/BI8CB60bVn

James Van Der Beek (@vanderjames) March 27, 2015

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