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With the Hoosier State’s national image damaged over its new “discriminatory law,” more pressure is building from mayors, business and tech leaders.
Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has joined his San Francisco counterpart, Ed Lee, in prohibiting official city travel to the state of Indiana, a response to a new religious objections law in the Hoosier State that has been renounced as a way to allow discrimination of members of the LGBT community.
Indiana’s S.B. 101 was signed into law on Thursday by Republican Gov. Mike Pence, whose office has been in damage control since then amid a severe backlash from the business and tech communities and civic leaders from inside and outside Indiana.
“I am ordering that none of our taxpayer dollars should go toward supporting this discriminatory law,” Murray, a Democrat, said in an announcement released by his office on Saturday. “To those in Indiana today who are working hard in the fight for equality—know that Seattle stands with you as you continue your efforts to end discrimination and protect civil rights for everyone."
Additionally Seattle City Hall is directing its municipal departments to review contracts with companies based in Indiana.
A mayoral spokesman told The Seattle Times that Murray is concerned about a 2016 National Conference of Mayors meeting in Indianapolis and will ask his fellow U.S. mayors to “re-evaluate that location.”
In San Francisco, Lee, a Democrat, announced Thursday that he was prohibiting city employees from taxpayer-funded travel to the state of Indiana.
"Effective immediately, I am directing City Departments under my authority to bar any publicly-funded City employee travel to the State of Indiana that is not absolutely essential to public health and safety," Lee said in a statement.
In Indianapolis, leaders in the city-county government have raised concerns about the image the state projects with the law in place.
Last week, Mayor Greg Ballard, a Republican, said the law sends the “wrong signal” for the state and its largest city and important economic driver.
"Indianapolis strives to be a welcoming place that attracts businesses, conventions, visitors and residents," Ballard said last week, according to The Indianapolis Star. "We are a diverse city, and I want everyone who visits and lives in Indy to feel comfortable here."
In South Bend, Mayor Pete Buttigieg joined local businesses in his city on Friday to denounce the law, saying the governor’s decision to approve the legislation doesn’t represent the values of his local community.
Local businesses in South Bend are posting green stickers on their doors to let customers know they welcome everyone's business, according to WSBT-TV.
Indiana’s national image has clearly taken a hit in recent days since Pence signed S.B. 101, particularly from the segments of the business and technology communities.
Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly & Co., which worked with the Indiana Chamber of Commerce, to fight the legislation, released a statement on Friday saying that the new law is “bad for Indiana and bad for business.”
The company’s statement continues:
We certainly understand the implications this legislation has on our ability to attract and retain employees. As we recruit, we are searching for top talent all over the world. We need people who will help find cures for such devastating diseases as cancer and Alzheimer’s. Many of those individuals won’t want to come to a state with laws that discriminate.
We also are concerned that divisive actions like this divert the state’s attention away from pressing issues like education and economic development.
Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced that his company, which employs between 2,000 and 3,000 employees in Indiana, would be canceling all its events in the state.
“Gov. Pence says he wants to bring the tech industry to Indiana and to increase the number of tech-related jobs in his state, but he doesn’t seem to understand that a significant portion of the tech industry is gay,” Benioff said, in an interview with re/Code. “This is one of the most important industries in the country and he has been advocating for us to expand and invest in Indiana, but you can’t say that and then say you’re going to legalize discrimination like this. The tech industry is not going to support this kind of legislation and is going to react against it.”
Indianapolis-based Angie’s List, too, announced plans to freeze a $40 million expansion in the city as a result of the new law.
Apple CEO Tim Cook, in a Washington Post op-ed, noted that there’s “something very dangerous happening in states around the country” with “nearly 100 bills designed to enshrine discrimination into state law.”
He continued: “From North Carolina to Nevada, these bills under consideration truly will hurt jobs, growth and the economic vibrancy of parts of the country where a 21st-century economy was once welcomed with open arms.”
In Indianapolis, Pence has been trying to stand his ground on his support of the law. But this weekend, he signaled an interest to “clarify” the controversial law.
"I support religious liberty, and I support this law," Pence said in an interview this weekend with The Indianapolis Star. "But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there's a way to clarify the intent of the law."
What that clarification might be is still largely unknown. And the governor didn’t really clarify anything in a Sunday interview on ABC News’ “This Week.”
Host George Stephanopoulos asked Pence at least six times whether the state’s new law would allow business owners in Indiana to deny services to gay customers. But he did not answer those inquiries directly.
“Look, the issue here is still is tolerance a two-way street or not,” Pence said.
Pence also blamed the ensuing controversy on “reckless” media coverage which has been giving his state unwanted attention.
Regardless of whether Indiana’s local leaders can project an inclusive welcome mat in the face of support for the law from the governor and legislature, the state’s business credentials have taken a huge hit in just a few days.
And that will hurt the Hoosier State’s abilities to promote an innovation economy.
In a succession of tweets on Sunday, Seattle-based venture capitalist and entrepreneur Nick Hanauer didn’t mince words about Indiana being an examples of “sad, forgotten places that smart people flee from.”
In his conclusion, Hanauer had a message for Indiana’s tech and creative talent: “So to all you creative, innovative, different people in Indiana. The world faces tremendous challenges. They will only be solved by people like you. Come to places like Seattle that will embrace you and leverage your talents. We need you. The world needs you. Indiana, apparently, does not.”
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