The owners of an Irish American family owned pizza parlor in Indiana have spoken in defense of the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), saying that they would not cater a gay or non-Christian wedding.
Memories Pizza & Ice Cream in Walkterton, Indiana has been run for nine years by the O’Connor family.
In an interview with local station ABC 57, Crystal O’Connor described her family’s business as “A Christian establishment” and said, “If a gay person came in, like say they wanted us to provide them pizzas for a wedding, we would have to say no.
“We’re not discriminating against anyone, it’s just that’s our belief, and everybody has the right to believe anything,” O’Connor added.
“We definitely agree with the bill… I do not think it is targeting gays, personally. I don’t think it’s discrimination. It’s supposed to help people that have a religious belief. “
Kevin O’Connor, Crystal’s father, also said he agrees with RFRA. “I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head because they choose that lifestyle?”
The O’Connors later clarified that while they would refuse to cater a gay or non-Christian wedding because of the apparent conflict with their religious beliefs, they would not refuse to serve a gay customer who came to their restaurant.
Alyssa Marino, the reporter for ABC 57, described Memories Pizza as “a small town establishment with small town ideals.”ABC57 News - See the Difference Michiana
The online backlash against Memories Pizza was immediate and intense, with thousands of people taking to the reviewing forum Yelp to slam the establishment’s policy. In addition to vehemently protesting and leaving a barrage of one star reviews (the lowest possible rating), many commenters expressed doubt that a gay wedding would ever be catered by a pizza place to begin with.
Indiana has been beset with controversy since Governor Mike Pence (R) signed the Religious Freedom Restoration act into law on March 26, the same day it was passed by the Indiana Legislature with a vote of 40-10.
A number of major businesses, including NASCAR, the NBA and WNBA and Apple, have decried the legislation on the grounds that it could give businesses the right to discriminate against customers based on their sexual preference.
Nineteen other states, as well as the federal government, have RFRAs, but the majority of them also have strict limits on how it applies and include sexual orientation as a protected class in their state civil rights laws. Indiana does not.
Memories Pizza is one of the first businesses to publicly state that Indiana’s RFRA supports their decision to refuse service based on a potential customer’s sexual orientation.
Last week, Governor Pence repeatedly dodged this very issue in a widely-panned interview with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, who cited comments from a supporter of the act celebrating the fact that “Christian bakers, florists, and photographers should not be punished for refusing to participate in a homosexual marriage!”
Stephanopoulos asked if RFRA, which will be signed into law in Indiana on July 1, would make it possible for Indiana businesses to refuse service to gay couples without fear of punishment. Pence declined to provide a direct reply, despite being asked to answer the “yes or no question” multiple times throughout the interview.
There have been a number of similar incidents in Ireland in recent years, with two bakeries in Northern Ireland refusing to bake cakes for gay weddings, and one stationers in Ireland refusing to print wedding invitations for a longtime customer on the basis that the wedding clashed with the owner’s Catholic faith.