Last week, Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a controversial bill into effect. The “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” is designed to protect the religious rights and freedoms of small businesses in the state. However, many have pointed out that this opens the door for these establishments to deny service to members of the LGBT community on the grounds of their religious beliefs. The bill contains no explicit language regarding sexual orientation, leaving it widely open to interpretation. In the wake of Missouri’s overt attempt to ban gay marriage, some see this as a loophole to achieve inequity.

 

As a result, the Republican Governor has had to contend with the national backlash of this decision, and the PR crisis that goes along with it.

 

Amid the controversy, Pence has taken the first step in reacting to a PR crisis by beginning a massive media campaign to set the record straight. Appearing on ABC’s “This Week,” he urged the understanding that the bill is designed to “prevent government overreach,” not to encourage discrimination. Genuinely shocked by the rage this bill has incited, Pence says he plans to stand up to it, stating, “I’m not going to take it lying down.”

 

(Rick Callahan/AP)

(Rick Callahan/AP)

Supporters of the bill have also come forward, explaining that 19 other states have similar legislation protecting religious freedoms, and Bill Clinton signed a similar bill into effect in 1993 at the national level. With gay rights at the forefront of current social issues, this iteration of the law has fallen under considerably more scrutiny than what had preceded it. Pence concluded that clarifying language will be introduced to prevent discrimination, but he stands by his decision as well as the legislation.

 

Despite all efforts to mitigate the controversy, the damage may have already been done. Several major entities — such as the NCAA; and Gen Con, Indiana’s largest gaming convention — have publicly considered changing venues away from Indiana for upcoming events. Perhaps the most drastic response came from the San Francisco-based company, Salesforce, which cancelled all mandatory business travel to Indiana in response to the legislation. With less people willing to spend money in Indiana, the businesses that the act means to help could ultimately suffer financially because of it.

 

What are your thoughts on the legislation? Comment or tweet @connerws to give us your thoughts!