Toyota, NASCAR Slam Indiana’s Shameful, Anti-LGBT ‘Religious Freedom’ Law

Mike Pence speaking at CPAC 2015 in Washington, D.C. (pic by Gage Skidmore)

Yesterday, Subaru issued a new and improved statement against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into law by Governor Mike Pence on March 26. Now, another automaker has joined the growing chorus of RFRA critics: Toyota, which maintains a considerable presence in Indiana and has a history of acing the HRC’s Corporate Equality Index.

In a statement issued to Gaywheels, Toyota says:

“Toyota has long been a corporate leader in supporting equality for everyone, reflecting our fundamental value of respect for all people. We do not condone discrimination in any form and we have taken appropriate steps to ensure that our team members are treated equally within the company. Our position is that inclusive treatment of all people is good for the workplace, marketplace and society as a whole.”

That’s not as forceful a condemnation as we’ve seen from other companies, but it’s slightly better than the “no comment” position that some have taken.

Interestingly, NASCAR — yes, people: NASCAR — has been more harsh in its criticism:

“NASCAR is disappointed by the recent legislation passed in Indiana. We will not embrace nor participate in exclusion or intolerance. We are committed to diversity and inclusion within our sport and therefore will continue to welcome all competitors and fans at our events in the state of Indiana and anywhere else we race.”

So, the moral of the story is: if you’re a straight, conservative white man, and you sign legislation that’s intended to appeal to other straight, conservative white men, but instead, you manage to piss off one of America’s largest sporting organizations that caters heavily to straight, conservative white men, you done screwed up.


I admit, I enjoyed watching Pence squirm on national TV as he was grilled by George Stephanopoulos. It was more fun than Falcon Crest, with more cringe-worthy moments than a Sunday afternoon marathon of The Comeback.

Also in the “good” column: it appears that the entire debacle has advanced the cause of LGBT rights. Few of us — least of all Governor Pence — expected the widespread backlash brought on by the bill. Frankly, apart from a few hate groups like the National Organization for Marriage and the American Family Association and some GOP presidential candidates, support for Pence and the RFRA has been muted. It now seems clear that many, if not most Americans, believe discrimination against the LGBT community is uncool, unethical, and ought to be illegal.

But there’s no easy way out of this conflamma. Due to the tenor of the debate, emotions are running high on both sides. It’s pretty clear that Pence and the Indiana legislature are going to have to make substantial changes to the RFRA. The trick is creating a means for them to do that without looking like spineless idiots. (Or more like spineless idiots.)

There are at least three possible outcomes:

1. Pence & Co. can do nothing and hope the hubbub blows over. This is unlikely.

2. Pence & Co. can revoke the law or gut it, which would make supporters look foolish and make detractors look like bullies.

3. Pence & Co. can carry out a one-two punch, adding statewide protections for LGBT citizens and clarifying that the RFRA doesn’t allow discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the best-case scenario: it would give the LGBT community the safeguards that it wants, and, if Pence is to be believed, it would leave intact the religious freedoms for business owners and organizations that the RFRA provides. (Freedoms that no one has been especially clear about, BTW.) The Left is unlikely to complain about that massive step forward, and although the Right might be tempted to do so, they know they’ll look like a bag of sulky dicks if they do.

Fingers crossed.

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