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Indiana's Big Data Conference Gets Its Sponsors Back After Protest

After changes to a controversial law, an event that several companies abandoned in protest is bouncing back.

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Last week, when tech companies around the U.S. responded to a controversial new Indiana law that provided some legal cover for discrimination against people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender, one of the levers available to a handful of firms was participation in the Indy Big Data conference.

Several companies pulled their plans to sponsor or send speakers to the event, scheduled for May 7. EMC had been the most visible sponsor, and not only withdrew itself but pulled its subsidiaries Pivotal and Isilon Systems from the event.

Now, after the addition of anti-discrimination language to the law, EMC and both the subsidiaries are back in, according to the Indy Big Data website and its Twitter feed. So are Cloudera and Platfora, two big data software companies that had also pulled out.

As tech events go, this one isn’t that large — it attracts only about 1,000 people. But the sudden refusal of several companies to participate made the protests against the law immediately visible and helped add pressure on state lawmakers to act quickly to amend it.

That’s still not the end of the story. The changes to the Indiana law weren’t enough for PayPal founder Max Levchin and a list of tech execs that now numbers 100, who are demanding that statewide anti-discrimination laws be implemented in places where there are religious freedom laws in place.

Incidentally, on CNBC today, our Liz Gannes talked about this new activist stance by tech execs on human rights and the apparent double standard on gender discrimination that seems to prevail in Silicon Valley. Here’s the video.

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