Indiana Will Fix Its Religious Freedom Law, but Don’t Thank Boycotts

The state’s LGBT residents worry that their allies are leaving them isolated.
(Photo: Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images)
Apr 2, 2015· 1 MIN READ
Jamilah King is a TakePart staff writer covering the intersection of race/ethnicity, poverty, gender, and sexuality.

On Thursday, Indiana Republican lawmakers are expected to announce a deal that alters the state’s so-called “religious freedom” law so that it does not make it easier for businesses to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender citizens. The move comes nearly a week after Gov. Mike Pence, a Republican, signed the bill into law, drawing national outrage.

Celebrities, artists, municipalities, and businesses have come out in force to keep away from the state in hopes that it will drive economic pressure on Indiana lawmakers to modify or repeal the law. Apple CEO Tim Cook published an op-ed in The Washington Post this week lambasting the law, writing that such legislation “goes against the very principles our nation was founded on.” In an interview with CNN on Wednesday, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff said that he’s been offering relocation packages of up to $50,000 to his Indiana-based employees who are eager to leave the state because of the new law. Angie’s List canceled a $40 million expansion of its Indianapolis headquarters.

Some LGBT activists are questioning the usefulness of such boycotts. Brantley Moate, a drag queen who frequents the state for performances, wrote in an op-ed for The Advocate, an LGBT newsmagazine that the boycott will “isolate the very people who need to be supported.” Moate continued: “Our allies in Indiana need us standing next to them and marching with them. We don’t need to be casting our rocks from distant places; we need to rally to Indiana. We need to speak there, perform there, and lift up the people who need our support. People should get out from behind their computer screens and go to Indiana in great numbers.”

Similarly, Samantha Allen, a woman who met her same-sex partner while doing research in Indiana, wrote in another op-ed that boycotting Indiana does a grave disservice to the LGBT people living there: “Issuing a death blow to the state economy while LGBT people cope with the potential discriminatory effects of SB101 is about as sound of a strategy as demolishing a house over a few pests.”

LGBT Indiana residents have said that one of the best ways to support their fight is to learn more about what they’re fighting for. One of those things is the Fairness for All Hoosiers Act, which would outlaw discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. “We want Indiana to be the thriving state that it can and should be,” advocates wrote in a letter to Pence this week, “but that will never happen with state-sanctioned discrimination against LGBT people on the books.” They closed with this: “It’s time to show the rest of the nation that Indiana is open for business—for everyone.”