On Thursday, Indiana
bigot Governor Mike Pence gleefully signed a thinly veiled anti-gay bill into law that will allow business owners to openly discriminate and call it “religious freedom.” Pence signed the bill even after Indiana Chamber of Commerce President and Chief Executive Kevin Brinegar warned that the bill will have severe effects on the state’s economy. Unfortunately for Indiana, their governor cares more about his bigoted beliefs than the welfare of the state, and now his decision could potentially cost the state billions in lost business.
After Pence thumbed his nose at equality, the technology industry rallied in support of equality. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff cancelled all programs that require employees to travel to Indiana, and is considering pulling out of the state all together, over concerns that his employees or customers would be forced to face discrimination. Salesforce.com is a billion dollar company with some 3,000 employees in the state that regularly holds conferences in Indiana, hosting thousands from across the country. Apple CEO Tim Cook and PayPal founder Max Levchin have condemned the bill, as has the CEO of Yelp, who penned this open letter to Governor Penn and other states considering such offensive legislation (looking at you, Arkansas):
These laws set a terrible precedent that will likely harm the broader economic health of the states where they have been adopted, the businesses currently operating in those states and, most importantly, the consumers who could be victimized under these laws…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.
Tech giants aren’t the only ones reacting negatively to the anti-LGBTQ law. Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in the country, has threatened to cancel the annual convention that’s held in the state:
“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. ”
Gen Con Chief Executive Adrian Swartout said the convention brings as much as $50 million to the state every year. Money the state is now in danger of losing because of Governor Bigot. Prominent LGBT activist George Takei, better known as the beloved Mr. Sulu from Star Trek, has asked the nation, and Gen Con attendees in particular, to boycott the state until the law is repealed, in this emotional Facebook post:
“I am outraged that Gov. Pence would sign such a divisive measure into law. He has made it clear that LGBT couples, like Brad and me, are now unwelcome in his state. The notion that this bill was not driven by animus against our community is belied by the record and frankly insulting. I will join many in demanding that socially responsible companies withdraw their business, conferences and support from his state and that LGBTs and our friends and supporters refuse to visit or do business with Indiana. It is a sad day for the Hoosier state, and indeed for the many good people of Indiana, for whom this law now stands as a terrible blight upon that state’s reputation.”
Even the San Fransico’s Mayor Ed Lee is boycotting the state. Lee said his city will no longer pay for employees to travel to the state:
“San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the state of Indiana.”
All of this spells disaster for the state. It is reminiscent of the Arizona Boycott after the anti-immigrant bill SB1070, also known Republican Governor Jan Brewer’s notorious “Show Me Your Papers” law, which legalized profiling and discrimination against minorities in her state. The blow-back from that legislative prejudice dealt a $140 million economic blow to the state, which she must have kept in mind when she vetoed a law very similar to the one Pence just signed, in 2014.
So what is Pence saying about all of this negative publicity? He’s defiantly blaming the media, of course:
“If you read the bill instead of reading the papers, you would see that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which is now law in Indiana, is simply about giving the courts guidance and establishing the same standards that have existed at the federal level for more than 20 years.”
Of course, it’s the “liberal media” to blame for making the nation aware of the real consequences to a hateful bill dressed up in the language of religious freedom! How typical of a Republican to refuse to take any responsibility after being called out. It’s only par for the course at this point.
The people of Indiana, who rely on these huge events and money generated by out-of-state businesses, are now going to suffer greatly because their governor cares more about his party’s outdated and discriminatory ideology than he does the well-being of the state he is supposed to govern.
Pence is going to learn a very hard lesson at the expense of the citizens of Indiana: hate is not good for business.
Opinion columnist and former editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.