Indiana Gov. signs bill allowing businesses to reject LGBT customers

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed a bill into law Thursday that critics say allows businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers on the basis of religious objections. While the bill doesn’t specifically mention LGBT persons, its language “prohibits state and local laws that substantially burden the ability of businesses and associations to follow their religious beliefs.”

The bill has sparked controversy among gay rights activists and organizations that hold conventions in Indianapolis, including a group of gamers whose annual gathering is considered to be the largest in the city, and a church group that warned the legislation has them reconsidering plans to hold their 2017 6,000-person General Assembly elsewhere.

Even the NCAA, which is set to host the Final Four in Indianapolis in two weeks, commented on the bill. While it hasn’t taken an official stance, the college men’s basketball organization said it was “committed to an inclusive environment where all individuals enjoy equal access to events.”

Former NBA player Jason Collins, who is pro sports first openly gay athlete, took to Twitter to voice his concern:

Supporters of the legislation naturally say concerns about discrimination are overblown. They say the measure simply allows people who provide services like catering or photography to deny said services to same-sex marriages or “other activities they find objectionable on religious grounds.”

“I think you will find that, if you do your homework in it, this law is not going to allow you to discriminate against anyone else or anyone’s rights in this country,” said GOP Indiana Senate President Pro Tem David Long.

Um, I don’t know, Senator Long. Maybe you have a different definition of “discrimination” than I do, or the dictionary does.

[Chicago Tribune Photo: Chicago Tribune]