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Changes to Indiana Law Don't Go Far Enough for Max Levchin

New language that expressly forbids discriminatory practices doesn't go far enough, the PayPal founder says.

Arnel Manalang / Thinkstock

Bowing to pressure from business leaders and a growing sense of national outrage, lawmakers in Indiana say they have reached a deal to revise a controversial law intended to protect religious freedoms with new language that specifically bars discrimination against people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.

It’s not yet clear whether Gov. Mike Pence will sign it, though it appears to meet the specifications of what he called for on Tuesday when he asked for language that would “fix” the law by the end of the week.

Yet the move doesn’t seem likely to bring closure to the debate. Max Levchin — the PayPal founder and Silicon Valley entrepreneur who Wednesday spearheaded a joint statement against potentially discriminatory religious freedom laws signed by a list of tech executives that has now grown to 70 names — said in a statement to Re/code that the new section of the bill doesn’t go far enough.

Specifically, Levchin says, in Indiana cities that have no local non-discrimination ordinances against LGBT citizens on the books, they still face what he called “at-will discrimination with no recourse at the city or state level.”

In an emailed statement Levchin called for a wider legal response:

“Statewide non-discrimination protections for LGBT Hoosiers still do not exist, meaning discrimination is still legal in most of the state. Businesses in Indiana have made it clear that the state must pass a statewide non-discrimination law that protects all Hoosiers from discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations and ensures that Indiana is seen as a welcoming place to visit and do business. Anything less is unacceptable.”

Update, 2 PM PDT: We just received a statement from Angie’s List CEO Bill Oesterle, the Indianapolis-based company that canceled plans to expand in reaction to this bill. It, too, is unsatisfied:

“Our position is that this “fix” is insufficient. There was no repeal of RFRA and no end to discrimination of homosexuals in Indiana. Employers in most of the state of Indiana can fire a person simply for being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning. That’s just not right and that’s the real issue here. Our employees deserve to live, work and travel with open accommodations in any part of the state.

We also received a statement from Travis Katz, CEO of Gogobot, a company that creates a travel guide app that it said would include warning messages in its information about Indiana destinations.

“We welcome the legislators’ move this morning to update the existing law. It is definitely a step in the right direction. The proof is in the pudding though and we won’t consider making any changes until the amended bill has been passed and signed into law by the governor. Until we feel confident that any traveler can visit Indiana without being denied service because of their race, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity we’ll keep our notices in place, so travelers are aware of the current situation in Indiana.”

Marc Benioff, CEO of, the state’s largest technology-based employer, appeared satisfied with the changes to the law. He Tweeted Thursday morning, thanking “the CEOs and key stakeholders who joined me in creating equality for all in Indiana!”

Last week Benioff rattled Indiana’s political establishment when he canceled all corporate events there and offered financial assistance for employees wishing to move out of the state. He also threatened further unspecified “economic sanctions.”

Benioff was not immediately reachable for comment on whether the new developments would affect his decision to cancel events in Indiana. Messages seeking comment from Gov. Pence and from Brian Bosma, speaker of Indiana’s Republican-led House of Representatives, were not immediately returned.

The new language in the law says it specifically doesn’t allow a business “to refuse to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing to any member or members of the general public on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service …”

It goes on to say it does not “establish a defense to a civil action or criminal prosecution for refusal by a provider to offer or provide services.”

Critics of the law have said it is so broadly worded as to essentially create a legal framework where people and business owners can invoke religious beliefs as a defensive shield in discrimination lawsuits, thereby making certain discriminatory decisions legal in Indiana that would be illegal elsewhere in the U.S.

The law’s defenders have said it essentially mirrors a federal religious freedom law signed by President Clinton in 1993 and numerous similar state laws. Those blanket comparisons aren’t quite accurate, as Garrett Epps has argued for the Atlantic.

Other companies have joined the protests against the law. Angie’s List put on hold plans for a $40 million expansion that would have added 1,000 jobs. And companies including Oracle, EMC, Amazon and Cloudera pulled out of a technology conference being held in that city in May.

This article originally appeared on

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