4 Things Brands Should Know About #BoycottIndiana


boycottindianaA new bill out of the Indiana General Assembly is making major news after it was signed into law on March 26.

Indiana Senate Bill 101, titled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), proposes that Indiana businesses can deny services to individuals or groups if providing those services is a burden on strongly held religious beliefs. Critics of the bill argue that it is targeted against the LGBT community and other groups, and thousands have protested passage of the law. Many have called for a boycott of the state using the hashtag #BoycottIndiana.

Before you decide how—or if—your brand will communicate regarding RFRA, here are four things to consider.

What other brands and influencers are doing: The backlash against RFRA has been swift and widespread. Some highlights include:

  • Apple CEO Tim Cook wrote an op-ed for The Washington Post, deriding the new legislation and other similar measures that are on the books or being considered in other states.
  • San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee announced that his city will not use taxpayer money to fund business trips to Indiana. Seattle is planning to do the same.
  • Salesforce has canceled company events in Indiana, and Yelp has announced that it will cut off plans to expand in Indiana.
  • The NCAA, which will host the Final 4 in Indianapolis this weekend, has expressed concerns over the new law and said that it will consider the law when choosing locations for future events.
  • Celebrities including George Takei, Ashton Kutcher, Ellen DeGeneres and many others have tweeted their support for #BoycottIndiana.

How the Indiana legislature is handling the backlash: On Saturday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence told The Indianapolis Star that he will support the introduction of legislation to "clarify" that RFRA does not promote discrimination against gays and lesbians. "I support religious liberty, and I support this law," Pence said in an interview. "But we are in discussions with legislative leaders this weekend to see if there's a way to clarify the intent of the law."

The history of religious freedom acts: Anyone boycotting anything should know the history of the issue at hand. Indiana is not the first state to pass a bill like RFRA. The history of similar bills stretches back at least to 1993, when President Bill Clinton signed the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 into law. To date, 21 states have passed their own versions of the federal law, with Indiana being the most recent.

Your employees' pulse: Before you decide how—or if—your company will communicate regarding RFRA, take the pulse of your employees. If your company gets caught in the backlash, the last thing you want is to alienate your employees by communicating in a way that doesn't align with their priorities.

Follow Brian Greene on Twitter: @bw_greene

  • Slinge Master

    “Indiana is not the first state to pass a bill like RFRA.” True, but unlike those other state laws, the Indiana RFRA explicitly covers not just individuals, churches and non profits, but “a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, a company, a firm, a society, a joint-stock company, an unincorporated association, or another entity.” The Indiana law is also unique in that states that it applies even in cases in which the government is not a party. Also, many other states have laws on the books that outlaw discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.