Anti-LGBT "religious freedom" laws are wrong, but #BoycottIndiana isn't the answer

George Takei is among activists calling for a boycott, but LGBT Hoosiers and ally businesses need our support now

Published March 27, 2015 2:39PM (EDT)

        (Wikipedia/Ludovic Bertron)
(Wikipedia/Ludovic Bertron)

As jackass Indiana Governor Mike Pence eagerly signed the state’s discriminatory Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law today in Indianapolis, calls to #BoycottIndiana gained momentum across social media, including from well-known LGBT activists like George Takei, who took to his Facebook page to write the following:

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….

As of July 1, the RFRA will give Indiana businesses the legal right to turn away or deny services to gay and lesbian customers under the guise of “religious freedom,” which apparently now simply translates to “protection to act like a bigoted, close-minded asshole.” Passage of the bill makes Indiana the twentieth state with an RFRA (based, like many others, on the federal version, which Congress enacted in 1993). Dozens of states around the U.S. are pushing similarly harmful measures, but Indiana is the first in this legislative session to sign such a bill into law. Way to be, Hoosiers.

Thankfully, major companies haven’t been shy in expressing their disgust. One of them is Salesforce, a $4 billion CRM and cloud-computing corporation. Scott McCorkle, CEO of Salesforce’s Marketing Cloud division, wrote a scathing letter to Indiana lawmakers earlier this week:

We have been an active member of the Indiana business community and a key job creator for more than a decade. Our success is fundamentally based on our ability to attract and retain the best and most diverse pool of highly skilled employees, regardless of gender, religious affiliation, ethnicity or sexual orientation. Without an open business environment that welcomes all residents and visitors, Salesforce will be unable to continue building on its tradition of marketing innovation in Indianapolis.

Additionally, Gen Con — Indy’s largest yearly conference — will likely make good on its threat not to renew its contract with the city once it expires in 2020. The Indy Star reports that hours after Governor Pence received the RFRA measure from congress, Gen Con’s owner/CEO Adrian Swartout contacted the governor, urging him to reconsider: “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.”

This is one pointed show of muscle that enables businesses invested in LGBT equality (or, you know, those just possessing basic human decency) to communicate their outrage. Our state’s most hateful zealots certainly seem like they need an actionable message that serves to undermine the exclusionary, divisive tactics being used in the name of supposed “religious liberty.”

More complicated, however, is the rally cry from everyday consumers who have spent the afternoon vocalizing their refusal henceforth to step foot in an Indiana hotel, restaurant, gas station, or any other place of business until this bill is overturned. As an ally and advocate, I totally get that impulse. But it’s wrong. LGBT people and equality allies live and work in this state too, and right now they need our support and our presence more than ever.

Pro-equality business owners are already pushing back against socially conservative legislators and other discriminatory businesses who have supported the bill. One of them is Zach Adamson, an Indianapolis city-county councilor who responded by hanging a sign of his own at his salon Urban Designs that reads, “We reserve the right to refuse service to Indiana state legislators. (And others whose backward thinking continue [to] embarrass the good people of Indiana).”

As Indiana time travels back to the 1960s with nostalgia for the Supreme Court’s religious exemption cases, the desire to raise high our middle fingers and bid the entire state a hardy good riddance makes a type of sense. Instead of entirely disappearing from somewhere that, as of today, has become exponentially more hostile to an already vulnerable, at-risk population, let’s resolve to double down on our support. Let’s clamor around the people and local communities who are hurting the most from the passage of this law. Let’s flood LGBT businesses with our patronage to communicate that even when their congress and their governor and their state have absolutely failed them, we’re still right here, ready to provide a safety net. A necessary buoy.

And if you still have a raging hard-on for more straightforward vengeance, is there any sweeter justice than letting anti-gay businesses see exactly how much profit neighboring LGBT-run or LGBT-supportive companies are making instead of them? Put it right in their faces. Make the hubris of their discrimination a death knell, but not at the expense of those who are getting it right.

Aside from repeatedly dialing and emailing the governor’s office to make sure he knows he’s a total douchecanoe, here’s how we can meaningfully help: use the rapidly-growing website to locate pro-equality businesses in Indiana, or look for storefronts sporting a This Business Supports Everyone sticker. Then put your body in those buildings. Shake the hands of their owners and managers. Call and thank them. Get on social media and show them some love. Tell your friends and everyone you know. Most importantly — buy a bazillion things from them. Governor Pence might wield the pen, but we still control our own purse strings.

This article originally appeared on WTFMommying.

By Kirsten Clodfelter

Kirsten Clodfelter is a freelance writer living in the Midwest.

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Boycott George Takei Indiana Lgbt Mike Pence