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article imageOp-Ed: Anti-gay law — Keith Olbermann asks NFL, NCAA to boycott Indiana

By Megan Hamilton     Mar 28, 2015 in Politics
Indianapolis - ESPN's Keith Olbermann has requested that the National College Athletic Association and the National Football League boycott Indiana until a controversial new law that allows businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples is repealed.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence demonstrated that he and many of his fellow conservatives live in an alternate reality than the rest of us do, by claiming that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act that he signed into law on Thursday isn't discriminatory, The Raw Story reports.
The law protects businesses that discriminate against same-sex couples, because, Pence said, in a statement, that "many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action."
Critics of the new law say that it undermines local ordinances that outlaw discrimination against customers based on a person's sexual orientation, and many, including Olbermann, are hopping mad.
Olbermann expressed his rage on Twitter:
"Simple fact: after Indiana enacts a law permitting prejudice against some of its customers, NCAA should pull Final 4 out of Indy. Right now."
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 26.
"I don't care if Final 4 winds up being played in a parking lot in Tulsa, NCAA has no right to support legally codified hatred and stupidity."
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 26, 2015
If a state wants to pretend this is 1955 and not 2015, dandy. You want to make some customers "illegal?" Prepare to be left behind.
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 26, 2015
And for that matter the NFL should play no games in Indiana until and unless this hateful, medieval measure is repealed.
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 26, 2015
And he wrapped it up with this, which should have left a few ears stinging:
And if you fall back on the discredited "orientation is a choice," ask yourself: what is religion if not a choice? Or passing hate laws?
— Keith Olbermann (@KeithOlbermann) March 26, 2015
Politicus notes that in Olbermann's mind, immediate actions can create devastating economic impacts on the states, and this is necessary in order to show conservative lawmakers that creating legal discrimination was a giant mistake.
So far, this is having an effect. Tech company Salesforce now says it will not hold anymore events in the state, and it's CEO Marc Benioff is calling on other companies to follow this lead. Gen Con, a large gaming convention which has been held annually in Indianapolis for several years, told attendees that once its contract with the city expires in 2020, it is likely they will be moving on due to the law.
Politicus notes that Gen Con attracts more than 50,000 people every year, and it's a big boost to the local economy. The company also sent a tweet saying that its CEO is preparing another letter to send to Pence, likely telling him that Gen Con will keep its promise.
The White House is also slamming the law, saying that it "runs contrary to U.S. ideals," McClatchy DC reports.
"The signing of this bill doesn't seem like it's a step in the direction of equality and justice and liberty for all Americans," Press Secretary Josh Earnest said, noting that the Republican Mayor of Indianapolis and a "whole host of nonprofit and private-sector companies who have legitimate concerns about the impact of this legislation," shared the administrations view.
Several businesses and nonprofit organizations have said that because Pence has signed the measure into law, they are reconsidering doing business in the state, Earnest noted. This includes the NCAA, which is slated to hold the men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis.
"All of those businesses and some of those who are considering having conventions in Indiana have raised concerns about whether or not all of their employees can count on being treated fairly in Indiana," Earnest said. "I think that is a testament to the kind of reaction I think a lot of people all across the country had."
Mark Emmert, NCAA President has said he is "especially concerned" about how this will will affect future events the NCAA might hold in the state, Politicus notes. He has warned the state legislature and governor that there might not be any more Final Fours, regional basketball tournaments, and other high-profile sporting events if this law stays on the books. Also, Emmert appears to be considering moving the NCAA headquarters to another state if no action is taken.
Although the NFL weighed in last year when Arizona was considering a similar law, the organization has remained mum this time around, NBC sports reports. This is rather peculiar, because last year the organization rebutted the proposed law.
"Our policies emphasize tolerance and inclusiveness, and prohibit discrimination based on age, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, or any other improper standard," the organization said in a statement. "We are following the issue in Arizona and will continue to do so should the bill be signed into law, but will decline further comment at this time."
So right now, the NFL's silence on this matter means there's an echo in the room.
So right now, the NFL's silence on this matter means there's an echo in the room, and hopefully the NFL will respond like it has in the past.
Pence and his Republican cronies in the General Assembly say the concerns are all a "misunderstanding."
"This bill is not about discrimination," Pence said, per The IndyStar, "and if I thought it legalized discrimination I would have vetoed it."
But if he really thinks this, then he really does live in an alternate reality because permission to discriminate is written into the bill.
According to The IndyStar:
"Senate Bill 101 prohibits state or local governments from substantially burdening a person's ability to exercise their religion — unless the government can show that it has a compelling interest and that the action is the least-restrictive means of achieving it."
The bill is scheduled to take effect on July 1.
The bill doesn't make mention of sexual orientation, but those who support same-sex marriage (myself included), worry that it may give business owners the means to deny services to LGBT folks for religious reasons.
In a private ceremony, Pence signed the bill at his Statehouse office shortly before 10:00 a.m. on Thursday. He was accompanied by lawmakers, Franciscan monks and nuns, orthodox Jews, and numerous powerful conservative lobbyists, The IndyStar reports.
The event wasn't open to the public or the press.
The signing of this bill makes Indiana the 20th state in the U.S. to enact such legislation. It's modeled on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. Perhaps this wasn't among his greatest ideas.
It's one thing when people want their religious freedoms to be protected, but when protecting their freedoms hurts the freedoms of others, it undermines all of us. Including those who wish to have their religious freedoms preserved.
A law that takes away the rights of others begets more laws that take away the rights of the rest of us.
Olbermann is right. This law is medieval. It should be consigned to the Dark Ages.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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