In the wake of controversy around Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which detractors say allows businesses to discriminate against LGBT individuals on the basis of religious beliefs, Cincinnati City Manager Harry Black is making a pitch to Indiana businesses: Come to Cincinnati.
“The city of Cincinnati is extremely well positioned for growth, as it is a dynamic economy in the heart of the United States,” Black wrote in a letter to businesses that have put the brakes on planned expansions in Indiana. “We feel strongly about celebrating and embracing our diverse population and making sure that everyone is afforded equal rights.”
The city and state of Ohio are more accepting, and that’s good for business, Black says. Black has already written to companies, like Yelp, that had planned to expand in Indiana but are now pulling back thanks to the new law signed by Gov. Mike Pence March 26.
Twenty states and the federal government have some kind of religious freedom restoration law, which is designed to protect individuals’ right to practice their religion. However, Indiana and a few other states have controversial language in their laws that extends those protections to businesses. Those businesses can cite the law and their religious beliefs if they are sued for denying services to certain groups.
Many businesses have balked at such RFRA laws, both in Indiana and elsewhere, saying they’re morally objectionable and bad for business.
Pence and Indiana lawmakers announced a fix to their law earlier this week that they say would prohibit discrimination. But many of the law’s critics, including big business, say the fix isn’t enough.