No matter what Indiana gov says, many businesses see new ‘religious freedom' law as anti-gay

Backlash was almost immediate

WASHINGTON, D.C. - As expected, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the hyper-controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed last week by the legislature. It took place at an unusual private ceremony.

"This bill is not about discrimination," Pence said, "and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it."

Many of Indiana’s largest employers don’t see it that way.

Michael Huber, CEO of business-booster Indy Chamber, said the new law was “divisive and unnecessary.”

"In our February testimony in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee, we warned of the impending negative economic impact this legislation would have on our ability to attract and retain jobs, talent and investment," Huber said in a statement. "Within moments of this legislation being signed, this warning became a stark reality."

Indeed it did.

The night before the bill was signed, Marc Beniofff, the CEO of giant,  tweeted, “We are forced to dramatically reduce investment in IN based on employee's & customer's outrage over the Religious Freedom Bill."

After the sign he again took to the tweets, saying, “Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination," Last year, Salesforce acquired Indiana based Exact Target for $2.5 billion.

The NCAA is based in Indianapolis and the Final Four comes to town there next week. "We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week's Men's Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill," NCAA President Mark Emmert said. "Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce."

The whole city of San Francisco intends to boycott the Hoosier state.

"We stand united as San Franciscans to condemn Indiana's new discriminatory law, and will work together to protect the civil rights of all Americans, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals," Mayor Ed Lee said.

And Apple CEO Tim Cook tweeted Friday, “Apple is for everyone. We are deeply disappointed in Indiana’s new law…"

The backlash is tame compared to the way Arizona was besieged in February 2014 when its legislature passed a similar bill.  The story led the evening newscasts. There were loud and national protests and pressure campaigns urging then Governor Jan Brewer to veto the bill. She did.

That was before the Supreme Court ruled against the administration and the Affordable Care Act in Hobby Lobby v. Burwell.  The court majority found that businesses could discriminate if not doing so placed a “substantial burden” on their religious liberty.  That ruling set the table for the Indiana law.

Many businesses in Indiana are trying to send a message with window stickers that say, “This business serves everyone,”

The Indiana governor and legislature apparently have sent out a very different message.

[Also by Dick Meyer: Lewinsky talks about our media-soaked lives]

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