The Time George Takei Went Toe-To-Toe With Mike Pence And Won

George Takei scored a major victory for LGBT rights in Indiana after he went to war with then Gov. Mike Pence.

March 2015 then Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed into law the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) in a private ceremony. ThinkProgress reported at the time that “Proponents of this bill had openly admitted that its intent was to enable businesses to discriminate against same-sex couples.”

According to the Chicago Sun Times, “reaction to the decision was swift and divided,” that

At least two groups — the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and Gen Con — have said they would reconsider plans to hold their conventions in Indianapolis because of the legislation. The CEO of California technology company Salesforce told the Indianapolis Business Journal his company would reduce its investment in the state because of the law.

ESPN reports that “NCAA president Mark Emmert says the association is concerned about an Indiana law that could allow businesses to discriminate against gay people,” and CBS4Indy reports that “the NCAA is looking into potential affects the bill may have on future hosting of the Final Four.”

Actor and LGBT activist George Takei took to Facebook on Thursday to smack down Pence (R) for signing the “divisive” bill into law.

Takei began, writing: “I am outraged that Gov. Pence would sign such a divisive measure into law. He has made it clear that LGBT couples, like Brad and me, are now unwelcome in his state. The notion that this bill was not driven by animus against our community is belied by the record and frankly insulting.”

Takei went on to write that he “will join many in demanding that socially responsible companies withdraw their business, conferences and support from his state and that LGBTs and our friends and supporters refuse to visit or do business with Indiana. It is a sad day for the Hoosier state, and indeed for the many good people of Indiana, for whom this law now stands as a terrible blight upon that state’s reputation.”

Calling the bill “bigotry, cloaked as religious protection,” Takei called for a boycott of the state via his Facebook page and Twitter feed, using the popular hashtag #boycottindiana; and, in an op-ed published on MSNBC, he wrote that “The days are over where some may be denied a seat at the table simply because of who they are – or in this case, whom they love.”

And the efforts of Takei and others soon paid off. As Wikipedia summarizes:

  • Marc Benioff, CEO of described the bill as an “outrage” and announced that the company would cancel all programs that require customers or employees to travel to Indiana.
  • Angie’s List announced that they would cancel a $40 million expansion of their Indianapolis based headquarters due to concerns over the law, that would have moved 1000 jobs into the state.
  • The Disciples of Christ have threatened to move their annual conference out of Indiana over the bill.
  • The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees announced they would pull their October conference out of Indianapolis.
  • The band Wilco cancelled a concert at the Old National Centre and Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally cancelled a tour stop in Indiana.
  • The mayors of San Francisco, Portland, Washington, D.C., Oakland, and Seattle all banned city-funded travel to Indiana temporarily.
  • The governors of Connecticut, Washington, Vermont, and New York State all temporarily banned state-funded travel to Indiana.

“A bill intended to provide protections for LGBT customers, employees and tenants was proposed by Senate President David C. Long and House Speaker Brian Bosma on April 2, 2015 and was subsequently passed by the legislature and signed by Governor Pence.”

As an interesting footnote, Right-wing Christian “rights” organizations were swift to condemn that amendment, saying that the changes “destroy” the bill by preventing Christian bakers and florists from refusing to service same-sex weddings.

The Indy Star reported at the time that:

[Eric] Miller, as president of Advance America, has been notable for saying the religious freedom law would protect florists and bakers who wish to decline to service gay weddings. But he was first out of the gate with a message to followers saying the changes would “destroy religious freedom protection in Indiana.”

[Micah] Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, issued a statement…. [telling his followers that] “Our legal advisors tell us that it actually changes our law in a way that could now erode religious freedom across Indiana.

The Indy Star went on to report that Curt Smith of the Indiana Family Institute said the changes would “erode Religious Freedom in Indiana.”

“By taking RFRA protection away from small business owners at the local level this additional legislation creates a problem the current law was designed to fix,” he wrote in a message to his followers.

Samuel Warde
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