Dot-com intimidation forces Indiana to undo hated anti-gay law

Also: 'Christian' pizza parlor gets pwned and massive payday


Indiana's politicians are racing to "clarify" the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) that has caused such a kerfuffle in the state.

Technology giants like Apple, Salesforce.com, Oracle, EMC, Pivotal, and Angie's List led the charge against the law, which would have allowed business owners to boot out customers who offended their religious beliefs.

The Silicon Valley goliaths had vowed to boycott the IndyBigData event, due to be held in May, as part of their protest. Even NASCAR was "disappointed" by the act.

Thursday's amendment to the RFRA will remove the right to discriminate on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity – for example, refusing to bake a wedding cake because the soon-to-be-wed are gay.

"Hoosier hospitality had to be restored," said Indiana House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis), the Indianapolis Star reports. (A Hoosier is someone who lives in or comes from Indiana, if you weren't aware.)

"Is the damage able to be turned back? That remains to be seen," he said, adding he was apologetic "not for actions taken, but the message received."

State Democrats were mulling over whether to support the Republicans' amendment, or press for a full repeal of the act, but after a couple of hours they decided to let it go to a straight vote by all state legislatures, which will probably be held later today. It is almost certainly going to pass successfully.

The new language has received a mixed response from the tech firms that had protested against it. Marc Benioff's Salesforce.com had been one of the most vocal opponents of RFRA; he said he was satisfied with the changes.

Others were not so sanguine. Bill Oesterle, the CEO of Angie's List, which had threatened to cancel a proposed 1,000 job expansion in the state, said the amendment was not enough, and that the RFRA must be repealed before he would change his mind.

"Our position is that this 'fix' is insufficient," he said in a statement. "There was no repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana."

Although Indiana has copped a lot of flak for its religious freedom law, the knock-on effect has impacted other states. A similar law, passed in Arkansas, was held up when the governor refused to sign it. The state's lawmakers have since changed their stance, and revised their law, too.

Other states are now coming under the microscope: on Wednesday, 40 technology company leaders – including Benioff and the CEOs of eBay, Twitter, Yelp, and AirBnB – signed an open letter to threatening further boycotts if similar legislation is passed.

"If anything can be learned from the battle for fairness and equality in Indiana, Arkansas, and other states, it's that LGBT people deserve to be protected from unjust discrimination," said Max Levchin, CEO of Affirm, and the organizer of the joint statement.

"We are proud to stand on the side of liberty and justice and call on all legislatures to add sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes in non-discrimination protections. This will ensure that no one faces discrimination while everyone preserves their right to live out their faith."

Meanwhile, back in Indiana, one of the first businesses to say that it would use the RFRA to bar gay customers came under a barrage of internet abuse following an interview with local TV station ABC57. The owners of Memories Pizza said they would refuse service thanks to the protections offered by the original RFRA.

"If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no," said the pizzeria's owner Crystal O'Connor. "We are a Christian establishment. We're not discriminating against anyone, that's just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything."

As a result of the interview, the shop was flooded with calls, and saw its Yelp rating cut from 4.5 stars to one after keyboard warriors slammed it online. The shop has since closed its doors until the fuss has calmed down, but it won't suffer financially: a GoFundMe campaign has raised nearly $250,000 to recompense the pizzeria's owners for their troubles.

"Stand tall! Keep fighting! Millions of good folks have your backs. If we don't beat back the GAYGESTAPO Christians will be back in the CAVES just as in Roman times!" said one moron contributor. ®

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