Theatre Community Keeps Heat On Anti-Gay Indiana Law As Actors Petition for Union Boycott

News   Theatre Community Keeps Heat On Anti-Gay Indiana Law As Actors Petition for Union Boycott
The theatre community erupted on social media starting March 26 after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law the so-called Religious Freedom Restoration Act, effectively allowing state business owners to discriminate against gays if serving them conflicts with their religion.

More concrete action has followed this week. On April 2, a group of actors started a petition, demanding that Actors Equity Association, the actors' union, boycott theatres in the state of Indiana. Within 24 hours the petition gathered more than half the 2,000 signatures it was seeking. Click here to read the petition.

Wife-and-husband actors Megan Mullally and Nick Offernan announced that they were canceling an upcoming stage appearance in the state, adding a note to Gov. Pence, "You suck."

On March 31, Sen. Al Franken went on David Letterman's "The Late Show" to urge the Indiana native to run for U.S. Senator after her retires later this year. Letterman was non-committal, but expressed his unhappiness with the law.

When a similar law appeared headed for a vote in the state of Arkansas, Arkansas Repertory Theatre's Producing artistic director Robert Hupp issued the following statement: “Arkansas Repertory Theatre stands in strong opposition to HB1228, the 'religious conscience' bill currently winding its way through our state government. We condemn any act that condones bigotry or discrimination of any kind. We believe HB 1228 is bad for our state and bad for our organization. Our state should look forward with optimism and hope, not backwards with anger and fear. This bill discourages the best and the brightest among us, in the arts and in commerce, from creating and living in our wonderful state. We, as a state, are better than this bill. VetoHB1228"

Actress Audra McDonald led the charge March 26, Tweeting to .@GovPenceIN, "Some in my band are gay & we have 2 gigs in your state next month. Should we call ahead to make sure the hotel accepts us all"? A few minutes later she tweeted, "Or MAYBE…we need to stick to singing in states that don't legislate hate?"

Writer and performer Harvey Fierstein responded, tweeting, "SHAMEFUL & DISGUSTING NEWS" and "How dare Indiana use the word FREEDOM in their law to institutionalize bigotry & hatred? The passage of that hate bill is UN-AMERICAN!"

Actor George Takei tweeted, "Outraged over Indiana Freedom to Discriminate law, signed today. LGBTs aren't 2nd class citizens. #BoycottIndiana."

On Facebook, actor Patrick Page wrote, "Dear Governor Pence--when you sign a law that even batsh*t-crazy Jan Brewer realized would backfire on her State, you need to get some air outside your bubble. Civilization awaits you."

Page posted about the law throughout the week of March 30, adding, for example, "The amazing thing about the events in Indiana this week is the way Gov. Pence has had to deny that the RFRA was designed to allow discrimination against LGBT couples who sought services for their weddings. That was it's sole purpose! Go to any right wing website (RedState, TheRightScoop, TeaPartyOrg) and scroll into the comments sections. The KNOW what it is about. On right-wing radio they talk about it freely. What does i t say about them that they now have to publicly deny their own intentions?"

Actor Rory O'Malley tweeted, "I married a Hoosier. I'm devastated by the passing of this discriminatory legislation. It doesn't represent the Indiana I know and love."

On Facebook, actress Julie Halston posted, "Shame on you Indiana!!!"

Blogger and former American Theatre Wing chief Howard Sherman parodied the lyrics to Meredith Willson's The Music Man song "Gary, Indiana," in response:

"Petitioning the Meredith Willson estate for lyric changes as a result of today’s action by Governor Pence:
Gary, Indiana, Gary Indiana, Gary, Indiana,
Let me say it once again.
Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana, Gary, Indiana,
That's the town that shunned me when.
If you'd like to have a logical explanation
How I happened on this ignorant legislation,
I will say without a moment of hesitation
There is just one place
Where I hide my face.
Gary, Indiana,
Gary Indiana,
Not California, Paris, France, New York, or Rome, but--
Gary, Indiana,
Gary, Indiana,
Gary Indiana,
My shame-filled home."

Other communities responded swiftly as well. Gen Con, a video game convention that regularly pumps an estimated $50 million into the state, threatened to pull out in future years if Pence signed the bill.

The law (SB 101), which takes effect July 1, would allow businesses to cite the religious freedom of their owners or employees as a defense if they are sued by a private party for discriminating against homosexuals.

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