Tech vendors have won in Indiana and there’s just 27 more states to go

In the state of Indiana, the scales, as they say, have tipped.

The state’s lawmakers announced Thursday that they are revisiting the state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) to ensure that it does not permit discrimination towards lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, in effect reversing what critics of the bill say was the bill’s original intent.

“We would fix the RFRA statute to assure that Indiana does not tolerate discrimination of any class of Hoosier,” said Republican Indiana House of Representatives speaker Brian Bosma.

The Indiana Republican Party maintained until the end that the heart of the bill was in the right place.

“What was intended as a message of inclusion, inclusion of all religious beliefs, was interpreted as a message of exclusion, especially for the LGBT community,” Bosma continued. “Nothing could be further from the truth. We’re pleased to tell you that… we will be presenting what we believe to be a very strong statement to assure that every Hoosier’s rights are protected and won’t be infringed upon by RFRA.”

With that statement, the State of Indiana committed to some sort of policy change.  As of Thursday, this has amounted to a separate fast-tracked bill stipulating that businesses cannot use RFRA to refuse “to offer or provide services, facilities, use of public accommodations, goods, employment, or housing” to customers based on “race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or United States military service.”

It falls short of adding sexual orientation as grounds for protection under the State’s anti-discrimination law, but for now, it should make it harder for businesses like this pizzeria to saying “no” to gay customers, after which it was targeted for damning reviews on Yelp.

As for the tech angle?

One major factor cited consistently in the political about-face has been the role of businesses.  The small, albeit vocal, group of technology vendors that spoke out against the bill has grown to over 70 companies as of Thursday, according to LGBT rights group Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Perhaps swayed by Salesforce’s example or convinced by Apple CEO Tim Cook’s op-ed, the list has now grown to include executives from such companies as Microsoft, Intel, Symantec, Twitter, Airbnb, Ebay, Cisco, PayPal, LinkedIn and Box.

With the pendulum now swinging the opposite direction it will be interesting to see how far Salesforce will be willing to take its opposition to the law, which has seen the company offer to pay as much as $50,000 to employees to quit the state.

While a state like Arkansas has perhaps dodged a bullet in learning from Indiana’s example, it remains to be seen whether this alliance of technology vendors will potentially hold up to all of America’s 28 states that have introduced anti-LGBT bills, according to the HRC, some of whom are more transparent in their intent and strategy to discriminate.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Dave Yin
Dave Yin
Digital Staff Writer at Computer Dealer News, covering Canada's IT channel.

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