Advocates promote Hoosier hospitality amid RFRA criticism

INDIANAPOLIS -- Local advocates are working to promote Hoosier hospitality amid the ongoing criticism of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

Use of the hashtag "boycottindiana" spread across Twitter Friday as activists complained the measure opens the door to legalized discrimination against gay people. The White House press secretary said the law isn't a step toward equality and justice.

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Regardless of where one stands on the issue, the law is affecting the public’s perception of the Hoosier state -- and that is why Downtown Indy has launched a campaign to strengthen the image of Hoosier hospitality.

"We are known for being hospitable, for being welcome and for being inclusive. That is Hoosier hospitality and we know it's alive and well," said Amanda Dorman with Downtown Indy.

The organization has requested those who know and love the city to submit videos that celebrate downtown’s openness and diversity.

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The effort comes as one CEO says he will scale back investments in Indiana and the organizers of two conventions are reconsidering where they will hold their events in the future.

Downtown resident and business owner Felicia Kiesel is worried how the religious freedom act will impact the city’s image.

She is part of a growing movement called Open for Service. Businesses are able to make a statement with small blue stickers in windows that say "This business serves everyone."

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"I'm a Christian woman and a business owner, and I believe God has taught us to welcome everyone. I do that in my business, so everyone is welcome in my business," Kiesel said.

Micah Clark advocated for the bill and was there when the governor signed it into law. The executive director of the American Family Association said the religious freedom act shouldn’t change anyone’s opinion of the Circle City.

"Seven of the top 10 cities are in states with RFRA laws just like this. Three of the five top convention cities are in states with laws like this. There's no reason to be afraid of this law. Indianapolis has a lot to offer, the whole state has a lot to offer," Clark said.

Supporters maintain the law is necessary to protect businesses from being compelled to provide services they find objectionable – based on religious beliefs.

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