The president of the South Shore Convention and Visitor's Bureau in Indiana says he doesn't expect the state's new "religious freedom" bill to have a negative impact on tourism.
"There's 31 other states that have bolstered religious freedom in some way or another -- Illinois being one of them, Texas being one of them, Florida being one of them -- and there was no appreciable change in business level," Speros Batistatos said Friday, one day after Gov. Mike Pence signed the controversial bill into law.
"This is, to me, a tempest in a teacup. We are going to be open for business. It's going to be business as usual," he said.
The bill Pence signed prohibits state and local laws that "substantially" burden the ability of people -- including businesses and associations -- to follow their religious beliefs. The bill doesn't mention sexual orientation, but critics maintain it is harmful and amounts to a license to discriminate against gay and lesbian people.
The governor's signature on Senate Bill 101 created a firestorm on social media, with residents, organizations and celebrities blasting the law and calling for boycotts of the state and its products and services: The president of the NCAA, which is headquartered in Indianapolis, issued a terse statement saying he was "concerned" about the law.
"Outraged over Indiana Freedom to Discriminate law, signed today. LGBTs aren't 2nd class citizens.," actor George Takei -- of Star Trek fame -- wrote on Twitter. He appended his message with the hashtag #BoycottIndiana, which became a trending topic.
Former Secretary of State and presumptive presidential candidate Hillary Clinton wrote on Twitter that she was "sad this new Indiana law can happen in America today. We shouldn't discriminate against people because of who they love."
The American Civil Liberties Union said the law is particularly troubling because the state doesn't have a human rights law to counteract it. In Illinois, the Human Rights Act prohibits unlawful discrimination against any individual because of his or her race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation and more. Members of the ACLU claim the new Indiana law counters the state's recently passed marriage equality.
Salesforce, Gen Con, and Yelp were among the companies who said the new law was making them re-evaluate their involvement in the state. Collectively, they bring millions of dollars to the state.
But supporters of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act say discrimination concerns are overblown because the bill is modeled after federal legislation that Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, signed into law in 1993 while president.
They say the law is about not forcing anyone to have to participate in something they don't support or believe in because of their religion.
Indiana's new law takes effect July 1.