Religious conservatives raised $842,000 for a small-town pizzeria.
Over the past few days, conservatives have tried to fight back against the national furor over Indiana's controversial religious freedom law, which allows people to challenge laws that conflict with their religious practices. As part of the effort, they raised more than $842,000 through a GoFundMe campaign for Memories Pizza, a business that received threats after it publicly stated that it will not cater same-sex weddings. Supporters of the pizzeria argue that businesses like it should be able to refuse, on religious grounds, to participate in any way in a same-sex wedding, according to laws like the one that passed on March 26 in Indiana.
At the same time, the Family Research Council and National Organization for Marriage, both of which oppose same-sex marriage rights, launched boycott campaigns against Angie's List, an online consumer ratings company that pulled a $40 million expansion of its headquarters in Indianapolis after the state's religious freedom law passed.
Religious freedom laws may have already lost public favor
Conservatives' efforts may be too late to stop public momentum against the laws like Indiana's. Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) already approved a clarification to the law to stop businesses from using the measure to discriminate against LGBT people. Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) on Thursday said he would veto a religious freedom bill, even before such a measure got a hearing in the current legislative session. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) forced legislators to revise one such bill before he signed it on Thursday. And similar legislation died in the Georgia legislature over the past week.
Moreover, any law that's even perceived to allow discrimination against LGBT people will likely become less popular over time. Not only do polls show that younger voters are much more likely to support same-sex marriage, but they're also more likely to say businesses shouldn't be allowed to use their religion to deny wedding services to same-sex couples:
It's the lack of civil rights laws, not religious freedom laws, that allow anti-LGBT discrimination
Despite the national outcry, legal experts argue — citing decades of court battles over the laws — that religious freedom laws couldn't be used to discriminate against LGBT people. These laws, which exist in 19 states besides Indiana, are traditionally meant to protect religious minorities by stopping the government from intruding on a person's religious practices without a compelling interest. What actually lets businesses deny jobs, housing, and service to LGBT people is the lack of civil rights protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in most states.
Still, many supporters of the controversial measures see them as a way to fight back against the spread of same-sex marriage rights in the US. But with their defeat in Indiana, they're forced to face up to the increasing reality that LGBT rights are slowly but surely winning public favor — and they're rallying around any means to show their discontent.