clock menu more-arrow no yes

How major celebrities and businesses are reacting to Indiana’s religious freedom law

Apple CEO Tim Cook says Indiana's religious freedom law is dangerous.
Apple CEO Tim Cook says Indiana's religious freedom law is dangerous.
Stephen Lam/Getty Images

The passage of a controversial religious freedom law in Indiana has drawn criticism from high-profile figures and businesses including George Takei, Hillary Clinton, Apple, and Yelp, with some calling for a boycott of the state and others warning of the law's consequences for LGBT rights.

Critics of Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which goes into effect on July 1, say it could give more latitude for employers, landlords, and business owners to deny employment, housing, and service to LGBT people, even where there are local laws that protect against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. But legal experts generally doubt the law will lead to discrimination.

Still, since signing the bill into law last Thursday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence has said he supports "clarifying" the intent of the law to not allow LGBT discrimination — a sign he's under pressure to act quickly. But for business owners, a clarification may not be enough: they're concerned that the mere existence of laws like Indiana's could signal to LGBT people that they're not welcome in the state, making it more difficult to recruit talented candidates.

Here are some of the biggest reactions from major celebrities and businesses as cries for action — and boycotts — mount in social media:

Ashton Kutcher

Charles Barkley

Former NBA star Charles Barkley called on the NCAA to pull the Final Four tournament out of Indiana. "Discrimination in any form is unacceptable to me," Barkley said in a statement, as quoted by USA Today. "As long as anti-gay legislation exists in any state, I strongly believe big events such as the Final Four and Super Bowl should not be held in those states' cities."

George Takei

George Takei, an LGBT activist and renowned Star Trek actor, posted on Facebook:

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.

Hillary Clinton

Angie's List

In response to the law, Angie's List, an online consumer ratings service, said it would halt a $40 million expansion of its headquarters in Indianapolis. "We're unwilling to engage in an economic development agreement that's contingent on us hiring people in when the state is sending a message out to potential employees that is not always palatable," Angie's List CEO Bill Oesterle said at a press conference.

Apple

Tim Cook, the openly gay CEO of Apple, tweeted that he's "deeply disappointed" in the law and would like Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto a similar measure.

Cook later wrote a column for the Washington Post in which he criticized the laws further:

These bills rationalize injustice by pretending to defend something many of us hold dear. They go against the very principles our nation was founded on, and they have the potential to undo decades of progress toward greater equality.

America's business community recognized a long time ago that discrimination, in all its forms, is bad for business. At Apple, we are in business to empower and enrich our customers' lives. We strive to do business in a way that is just and fair. That's why, on behalf of Apple, I'm standing up to oppose this new wave of legislation — wherever it emerges. I'm writing in the hopes that many more will join this movement.

Big Ten

The Big Ten, a college sports conference that hosts events in Indiana, will review the law's impact. "The Big Ten Conference and its member institutions believe in promoting an inclusive environment in which athletic competition can operate free from discrimination," the conference said in a statement, as reported by SB Nation. "The conference is aware of the bill that was recently signed into law in the state of Indiana and will further review its impact at the next scheduled meetings of its administrators, presidents and chancellors."

Disciples of Christ

The Indianapolis-based church Disciples of Christ said in a statement that it may move its biannual convention out of the state. The church continued:

Purportedly a matter of religious freedom, we find RFRA contrary to the values of our faith — as well as to our national and Hoosier values. Our nation and state are strong when we welcome people of many backgrounds and points of view. The free and robust exchange of ideas is part of what makes our democracy great.

As a Christian church, we are particularly sensitive to the values of the One we follow — one who sat at table with people from all walks of life, and loved them all. Our church is diverse in point of view, but we share a value for an open Lord’s Table. Our members and assembly-goers are of different races and ethnicities, ages, genders and sexual orientations. They have in common that they love Jesus and seek to follow him.

Eli Lilly and Company

Eli Lilly and Company, a major pharmaceutical company, condemned Indiana's law in a statement to ThinkProgress:

Discriminatory legislation is bad for Indiana and for business. That's one key reason we worked with the Indiana Chamber and other businesses in an attempt to defeat the legislation. One of our long-held values is respect for people, and that value factors strongly into our position. We want all our current and future employees to feel welcome where they live. We certainly understand the implications this legislation has on our ability to attract and retain employees. As we recruit, we are searching for top talent all over the world. We need people who will help find cures for such devastating diseases as cancer and Alzheimer's. Many of those individuals won't want to come to a state with laws that discriminate.

The Indianapolis Star

The Indianapolis Star, Indiana's biggest newspaper, ran a front-page editorial calling on Gov. Pence to pass nondiscrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers:

The Indianapolis Star's RFRA cover. Indianapolis Star

The newspaper's editorial board claimed the state's reputation had been tarnished by the law, and only nondiscrimination protections could move Indiana forward:

We are at a critical moment in Indiana's history.

And much is at stake.

Our image. Our reputation as a state that embraces people of diverse backgrounds and makes them feel welcome. And our efforts over many years to retool our economy, to attract talented workers and thriving businesses, and to improve the quality of life for millions of Hoosiers.

All of this is at risk because of a new law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, that no matter its original intent already has done enormous harm to our state and potentially our economic future.…

Gov. Mike Pence and the General Assembly need to enact a state law to prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, education and public accommodations on the basis of a person's sexual orientation or gender identity.

Those protections and RFRA can co-exist. They do elsewhere.

NASCAR

NASCAR, which hosts the Indianapolis 500 in Indiana, condemned the law in a statement from Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer Brett Jewkes: "NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race."

NBA, WNBA, Indiana Pacers, and Indiana Fever

The NBA, WNBA, Indiana Pacers, and Indiana Fever issued joint statements voicing a commitment to inclusion following the law's passage.

The NBA and WNBA: "The game of basketball is grounded in long established principles of inclusion and mutual respect. We will continue to ensure that all fans, players and employees feel welcome at all NBA and WNBA events in Indiana and elsewhere."

Indiana Pacers and Fever owner Herb Simon: "The Indiana Pacers, Indiana Fever, and Bankers Life Fieldhouse have the strongest possible commitment to inclusion and non-discrimination on any basis. Everyone is always welcome at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. That has always been the policy from the very beginning of the Simon family’s involvement and it always will be."

NCAA

Mark Emmert, president of the NCAA, which hosts the Final Four, said in a statement that he's concerned about the law:

The NCAA national office and our members are deeply committed to providing an inclusive environment for all our events. We are especially concerned about how this legislation could affect our student-athletes and employees. We will work diligently to assure student-athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill. Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.

NFL

The NFL is evaluating the law and its options, a spokesperson told the Indianapolis Star. "We do not have a comment at this time," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "We are in the process of studying the law and its implications."

Salesforce

Marc Benioff, the CEO of Salesforce, a computing company based in San Francisco, said on Twitter that his company will cancel "all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination":

Yelp

Jeremy Stoppelman, CEO of Yelp, a crowdsourcing review site, called on states to reject religious freedom laws:

[I]t 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. I encourage states that are considering passing laws like the one rejected by Arizona or adopted by Indiana to reconsider and abandon these discriminatory actions. (We’re looking at you, Arkansas.)

Watch: How most states still discriminate against LGBT people

Further reading: How Indiana's religious freedom law sparked a battle over LGBT rights.