The main drag that runs through Walkerton, Ind. (population 2,144) isn't much to look at — a few empty storefronts, an antique shop, and a cafe — but it's now ground zero for a debate that has gripped much of the nation. Memories Pizza, a restaurant owned by the O'Connor family, is the first business in Indiana to publicly come forward in support of Indiana's new controversial and discriminatory "religious freedom" law. Memories Pizza's owners claim they have a right to protect their religious beliefs — and thereby deny service to people among the LGBT community.
There are seven churches in Walkerton, and the town's official website lists eight restaurants including a McDonald's and a Subway. Memories Pizza has been owned and operated by the O'Connor family for nine years. Co-owner Crystal O'Connor told a local news station that if a gay couple wanted to order pizzas for their wedding, "we would have to say no." The family's devotion to their Christian faith is strong, and they identify as "a Christian establishment."
"We're not discriminating against anyone, that's just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything," O'Connor told the local ABC station, "We definitely agree with the bill." Miss O'Connor clarified her stance: "I do not think it's targeting gays. I don't think it's discrimination... It's supposed to help people that have a religious belief."
However, the O'Connors said they would not deny service to any individual who walked in for a pizza. What they disagree with is gay marriage. Memories Pizza refuses to cater gay weddings or celebrations. Crystal's father Kevin O'Connor defended his position: "I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?"
"Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?"
Indiana's new law has struck a nerve across the nation, with conservative Christians coming out in support of the measure, and the rest of the nation shaking their heads in shame. In recent months, several bakeries across the country have attempted to refuse service gay people, but state legislatures have blocked these actions.
Earlier this week, an Indiana business owner anonymously came forward to support Indiana's new "religious freedom" bill by admitting that he had always discriminated against gay people. His logic? "I feel okay with it because it's my place of business, I pay the rent, I've built it with all my money and my doing. It's my place; I can do whatever I want with it."Eater Video: How most states discriminate against LGBT people