With the Final Four drawing near to Indiana, the NCAA is weighing in on the state’s controversial Religious Freedom law, passed last week, which critics say grant the right to any business owner in Indiana to refuse service to a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender customer. Supporters of the law, which carried tremendous support by the Republican-led state legislature, said the bill “will keep the government from forcing business owners to act against their strongly held religious beliefs,” writes Reuters News Service. Exactly how the new legislation will play out, well, no one is quite sure.
But the law has plenty of opponents, the NCAA one of them.
Writes the USA Today: “The NCAA is ‘especially concerned’ by a recently enacted law in Indiana, which hosts this year’s Final Four, that grants businesses the right to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples, NCAA President Mark Emmert said in a statement released on Thursday.”
The new law, Senate Bill 101, prohibits a “governmental entity from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest.”
After the bill was signed Thursday, protestors spilled into the streets, and a number of businesses have already pulled out of deals with the state of Indiana and called for a boycott.
Indiana Governor Mike Pence attempted to stem the tide of protest calls and those who say the law will create an open and protected forum for any business owner to discriminate against a member of the LGBT community.
“There has been shameless rhetoric about my state, about this law, and about its intention all over the Internet,” Pence said. “It does not apply to disputes between individuals, unless government action is involved.”
The NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, is scheduled to hold its college championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis next weekend. NCAA President Mark Emmert said his organization is concerned about the potential impact on NCAA employees, as well as athletes, students and tourists visiting for the game.
“Moving forward, we intend to closely examine the implications of this bill and how it might affect future events as well as our workforce,” Emmert said.
Adds USA Today: “The LGBT Sports Coalition has called for organizations to pull all major sporting events from Indiana. The group wants the 2016 Women’s Final Four and all future NCAA basketball tournament games pulled from Indiana as well as other sporting events.”
“We believe any sporting events that can be moved outside the state should be moved,” the coalition said in a statement.
What are your thoughts on the Religious Freedom law, and should the NCAA yank the Final Four out of Indiana?