The hits keep coming for Indiana over Republican Gov. Mike Pence’s decision to sign a religious freedom bill into law. Critics warn that the measure could sanction discrimination against LGBT people on religious grounds.
Angie’s List, an online concierge to find companies to perform various household maintenance, announced Saturday it was halting a planned expansion to its campus in Indianapolis over the new law, according to CEO Bill Oesterle.
During a press conference, Oesterle called Pence’s decision to sign the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – which was reportedly done Thursday in private rather than in front of the press – “very disappointing.”
Oesterle said the bill hurts his company’s ability to hire the best employees and works against the state’s promise to help encourage economic growth. He also rejected the claims from some defending the bill that the controversy is being fed by “bad media coverage,” adding that he thinks the law has “significant problems.”
“We are putting the ‘Ford Building Project’ on hold until we fully understand the implications of the [religious] freedom restoration act on our employees, both current and future,” Oesterle said in a separate written statement, adding, “Angie’s List is open to all and discriminates against none and we are hugely disappointed in what this bill represents.”
Oesterle said at the press conference that the company’s decision would not have any immediate effect on Angie’s List’s existing headquarters or its current employees in Indianapolis. He also told reporters he has not spoken directly with Pence since the law was signed, but has conveyed his company’s message to other state employees.
“We don’t favor the legislation at all,” Oesterle told reporters. “We view it as unnecessary. It has nothing to do with creating jobs, nothing to do with educating children. It has nothing to do with attracting talent to the state of Indiana. Our basic question is: what do we need it for in the first place?”
The company said it was expected to begin work on the expansion project in the coming days and will instead “begin reviewing alternatives for the expansion of its headquarters immediately.” Angie’s List had planned to add 1,000 new jobs in Indianapolis over the next five years. The company currently has 1,800 employees in the city. “We were very excited about this project,” Angie’s List spokeswoman Cheryl Reed told msnbc.
Hundreds of demonstrators rallied against the law Saturday outside the Indiana Capitol, according to the Associated Press. Some carried signs that read “No hate in our state,” and others chanted “Pence must go.”
After signing the bill Thursday, Pence said he approved the legislation because he supports “the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith.” He added, “The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.”
The backlash over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has been swift and widespread. Celebrities, politicians and business leaders have condemned the measure, which ultimately could cost the Hoosier State real money. On top of the decision by Angie’s List, the National Collegiate Athletic Association, which is also based in Indianapolis, has expressed concern over the law.
“We will work diligently to assure student athletes competing in, and visitors attending, next week’s Men’s Final Four in Indianapolis are not impacted negatively by this bill,” NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement Thursday. “Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce.”
A number of other high-profile college sporting events are scheduled to take place in Indiana over the next year. Additionally, some groups that hold regular conventions in Indiana have signaled that they could reexamine their contracts with the state over the law.
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The religious freedom bill has reverberated in other parts of the country, too. The mayors of Seattle and San Francisco have all but barred the use of public funds to travel to Indiana.
“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 Mayor Edwin Lee said in a statement Thursday announcing the move to limit travel to the Hoosier State that is not “absolutely essential to public health and safety.”
On Saturday, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray followed suit.
“Indiana’s S.B. 101 doesn’t reflect the values of our city. Seattle has been a leader in the fight to protect civil rights and ensure equality for all people – no matter who you are, or who you love,” Murray said in a statement. “This is why I am ordering that none of our taxpayer dollars should go toward supporting this discriminatory law. 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.”
Emma Margolin contributed reporting.