With all the excitement surrounding the NCAA basketball tournament, the one thing putting a damper on it all is the passing of the Religious Freedom Bill in Indiana. If you haven’t heard about it yet, it’s a bill Governor Mike Pence signed into law a few days ago. In short, the bill allows business owners in Indiana the legal right – based on their religious beliefs – to deny service to anyone who is gay or lesbian. Basically, we are going back to the days of segregation when business owners would deny service to black people. It is discrimination at its finest. With this bill, and the media spotlight on Indiana because the NCAA tournament is being held there, people are now threatening to boycott the state as a whole. So, what does this mean for business?
Big events, such as the NCAA tournament, bring thousands of consumers, who spend, to a city. For Indiana businesses, this means a lot of money coming their way. With this bill signed into law, many people are refusing to go to Indiana and will take their money elsewhere. It’s inevitable the companies that don’t support this bill are going to lose out on potential business. They never asked for this. They have the hopes and expectations that when big events are hosted in their state, they will reap the benefits, which they should. This won’t affect them next week during the tournament because it is too late to move the event but that doesn’t speak to any future events the NCAA puts on. The President of the NCAA, Mark Emmert, has said they are considering moving NCAA headquarters out of Indiana because of this bill; I wouldn’t be surprised if they completely ban Indiana from hosting any future events as well. This is something they have proven they will do, as was the case in 2002 when South Carolina was banned from ever hosting any NCAA championships because the Confederate flag flies at the state capital.
Not only does this bill affect the LGBTQ community, it affects the people who work for companies who support the bill. Companies with diverse employment won’t want to be in Indiana either. These businesses want their employees to feel safe and accepted where they live and work. If LGBTQ workers leave the state and find work elsewhere, what will that mean for companies losing great workers? Larger corporations may reconsider expanding into Indiana as well because they don’t want to end up on the wrong side of history. For example, Angie’s List was going to invest 40 million dollars and expand into Indiana, which would create thousands of jobs; however, since the signing of the bill, they have cancelled the expansion.
Will companies in Indiana have to change the way they market their business to account for the new bill? Will companies that agree with the bill have to post signage so a gay person won’t even enter their store? Will companies that don’t agree with the bill change their marketing to target the LGBTQ community directly and show they support them? This bill will have many major implications on the economy and jobs in Indiana – more than companies that support the bill realize. Is discriminating against the LGBTQ community worth Indiana losing jobs/businesses and their economy suffering? Some people believe this law is protecting religious rights, but what about human rights? What about the beliefs of the LGBTQ community?
With this legislation, and others like it, I believe we are going back in time, and this is just another form of legal discrimination. What happened to the separation of church and state?
I feel for our southern counterparts in the LGBTQ community, this is no way to live – in constant fear that you are going to be denied anywhere you go. Even if it’s just as simple as grabbing a coffee.
This post was written by our digital marketing intern, Lacey McNulty! Follow her on on Twitter @Lay31