Indiana Restaurant Faces Online Backlash for Refusing Service to Same-Sex Weddings

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A small-town pizzeria that came out as saying that they would deny service to same-sex weddings, citing Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, has been met with a ferocious response on Internet review websites.

Memories Pizza of Walkerton told ABC 57 that they support the law signed by Governor Mike Pence last week and that they would use it to deny service to gay weddings.

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” Crystal O’Connor of Memories Pizza told the local ABC affiliate. “We are a Christian establishment.”

“That lifestyle is something they choose. I choose to be heterosexual,” says Kevin O’Connor, the owner of the restaurant. “They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?”

Crystal O’Connor maintains that they are “not discriminating against anyone, that’s just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything.”

Walkerton is a town of slightly over two-thousand people just 30 minutes southwest of South Bend.

Shortly after first hitting local airwaves, the story went viral. National media outlets like the Huffington Post, Daily Beast and Mother Jones all ran articles.

The restaurant’s owner, Kevin O’Connor, told the Daily Beast that they would not deny service to gays in the store but would refuse to cater to a same-sex wedding. He said that the situation was a hypothetical and that his comments were taken out of context.

“I don’t have a problem with gay people, I do not condone gay marriage and that’s what I said,” O’Connor said. “I don’t turn anybody away from the store, I don’t have a problem with gay people. I just don’t condone the marriage.”

Online reaction was almost universally negative.

The restaurant immediately took a hit on the online review website Yelp. There were over 1800 reviews as of 5 pm on April 1, only two of which were posted prior to March 31 when the story first broke. Their overall score is now 1.5 stars out of 5. The lowest score allowed for a Yelp review is a 1 star.

“I have an allergy to intolerance, and unfortunately, this pizza place does NOT cater to those with intolerance allergies,” user Anita S. of New York writes.

Another user said that while the restaurant wanted free publicity, they would have a financial “price to pay” for their choice to deny service to same-sex couples.

The restaurant’s Facebook page has also taken a beating with a score of just 1.2 out of 5.

Meanwhile, a Concord High School coach has been suspended for a threatening Tweet directed at the restaurant.

“Who’s going to Walkerton, IN to burn down #memoriespizza w me?” asked Jess Dooley on Twitter.

According to the Elkhart Truth, the Walkerton Police Department investigated the incident and sent the case to the St. Joseph County Prosecutor’s Office.

Governor Mike Pence and Republican leaders say that they are working to “clarify” the law to make sure that it will not be used to deny services. Democrats say that the law has done great damage to the state’s reputation and should be repealed in its entirety.

Image Credit: Marc Wathieu, flickr

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