INDIANAPOLIS — Hundreds of people, some carrying signs reading ‘‘no hate in our state,’’ gathered Saturday outside the Indiana State House for a boisterous rally against a new state law that opponents say could sanction discrimination against gay people.
Since Republican Governor Mike Pence signed the bill into law Thursday, Indiana has been widely criticized by businesses and organizations around the nation, as well as on social media with the hashtag #boycottindiana.
Local officials and business groups in the state hope to stem the fallout, although consumer review service Angie’s List said Saturday that it is suspending a planned expansion in Indianapolis because of the new law.
The law’s supporters contend discrimination claims are exaggerated and say it will keep the government from compelling people to provide services they find objectionable on religious grounds. They also maintain that courts haven’t allowed discrimination under similar laws covering the federal government and 19 other states.
State Representative Ed DeLaney, an Indianapolis Democrat, said the statute goes further than those laws and opens the door to discrimination.
‘‘This law does not openly allow discrimination, no, but what it does is create a road map, a path to discrimination,’’ he told the crowd at Saturday’s rally, which extended across the south steps and lawn of the State House. ‘‘Indiana’s version of this law is not the same as that in other states. It adds all kinds of new stuff and it moves us further down the road to discrimination.’’
The measure, set to take effect in July, prohibits state laws that ‘‘substantially burden’’ a person’s ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of ‘‘person’’ includes religious institutions, businesses, and associations.
Saturday’s crowd, for which police didn’t have an exact estimate, chanted ‘‘Pence must go!’’ several times and many people held signs with messages including ‘‘I’m pretty sure God doesn’t hate anyone.’’
Zach Adamson, a Democrat on the Indianapolis City-County Council, said to cheers that the law has nothing to do with religious freedom but everything to do with discrimination.
‘‘This isn’t 1950 Alabama; it’s 2015 Indiana,’’ he said, and added that the law has brought embarrassment on the state.
Among those who attended the rally was Jennifer Fox, a 40-year-old from Indianapolis who was joined by her wife, Erin Fox, and their two boys, ages 5 and 8, and other relatives.
Fox said they married last June on the first day that same-sex marriage became legal in Indiana under a federal court ruling. She believes the law is a sort of reward to Republican lawmakers and their conservative Christian constituents who strongly opposed the legalization of gay marriage.
‘‘That’s where this is coming from: to find ways to push their own agenda, which is not a religious agenda; it’s aimed at a specific section of people.’’
Although many Indianapolis businesses have expressed opposition to the law and support for gays and lesbians, Fox worries her family could be turned away from a restaurant or other business, and that her sons would suffer emotionally.