Less than 24 hours after Indiana Republican Governor Mike Pence signed a law permitting businesses to discriminate against gays and lesbians, corporations lined up to boycott the state in response. The backlash was almost immediate. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff tweeted on Thursday, shortly after the bill was signed:
Today we are canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination.
The online review company Yelp also signaled its intentions to boycott Indiana, and every other state that allows discrimination against gays and lesbians. Yelp chief executive, Jeremy Stoppelman, stated on Thursday:
I hope that in the future the legislatures in the nineteen states that have these laws on the books will reconsider their actions. In the mean time, Yelp will make every effort to expand its corporate presence only in states that do not have these laws allowing for discrimination on the books.
On Friday, the city of San Francisco announced it would boycott Indiana as well. San Francisco Mayor Edwin Lee ordered city departments to ban work-related trips to Indiana, unless they were necessary for public health and safety. Lee issued a statement condemning the Indiana law:
We stand united as San Franciscans to condemn Indiana’s new discriminatory law, and will work together to protect the civil rights of all Americans including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals.
San Francisco taxpayers will not subsidize legally-sanctioned discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people by the state of Indiana.
While San Francisco is a government rather than a corporate entity, a municipal employee’s boycott can still have an economic impact by depriving Indiana of tourism revenue.
The Disciples of Christ Christian Church is also contemplating moving their 2017 convention out of Indianapolis, to protest the passing of the anti-gay law. 8,000 church members attend their annual convention, providing the host city with an estimated economic benefit of nearly 6 million dollars. However, the church has threatened to relocate their convention, due to concerns over the discriminatory Indiana law.
The swift backlash from tech companies, city governments and mainstream Christian churches may give Governor Pence and Republican lawmakers pause for reconsidering the wisdom of passing their anti-LGBT bill. While many Republicans appear uninterested in recognizing equal rights for LGBT citizens, they do recognize the power of money. If the idea that all people should be treated with equal dignity and respect is unpersuasive, perhaps the economic impact of a boycott will be.
Governor Pence may have thought putting his signature on the anti-gay law would make him a rising star in the Republican Party. However, if the boycott against his narrow-minded decision continues to gain momentum, it could sink Indiana’s state economy. If that happens, Governor Pence and the Republican-controlled legislature will be held responsible.
Keith Brekhus is a progressive American who currently resides in Red Lodge, Montana. He is co-host for the Liberal Fix radio show. He holds a Master’s Degree in Sociology from the University of Missouri. In 2002, he ran for Congress as a Green Party candidate in the state of Missouri. In 2014, he worked as a field organizer for Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick’s successful re-election bid in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District. He can be followed on Twitter @keithbrekhus or on Facebook.