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Indiana Pizzeria at Center of Marriage Equality Controversy Has Closed

Memories Pizza was among the first to vocally support Mike Pence’s anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 2015

Eduard fotoby/Shutterstock

Memories Pizza, the Walkerton, Indiana restaurant that gained national attention for suggesting they would refuse to cater a gay wedding if invited to, has permanently closed. According to the South Bend Tribune, the restaurant shuttered last month.

The pizzeria went viral in 2015 after its owners became among the first to publicly voice support for Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which then-governor Mike Pence signed into law to protect the “many people of faith [who] feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action.” (Due to a vocal backlash from civil rights groups, the act was amended a week later to explicitly offer anti-discrimination protections to the LGBTQ community.)

But in the days leading up to the original act’s signing, the pizzeria entered the spotlight then when Memories co-owner Crystal O’Connor told a local news station that “we would have to say no” to a gay couple if they requested pizzas for a wedding, a response fueled by the fact that they are “a Christian establishment.” O’Connor clarified at the time that the pizzeria would not deny service to any individual who wanted to place an order, but that they would not support or offer their services to a same-sex marriage celebration.

In the resulting backlash, Memories’ Yelp page was flooded with negative reviews, many written with tongue firmly in cheek. (According to Yelp, more than 7,600 of these reviews were eventually removed, a record for the site at the time — placing Memories in the history books as the first Yelp restaurant page that emerged a space for social protest in our current political era.) Following the online attention, the shop temporarily closed for a few days, citing safety reasons and threatening phone calls. A GoFundMe account set up by supporters (and backed by conservative radio host Glenn Beck) ultimately raised over $846,000 to “to relieve the financial loss endured by the proprietors’ stand for faith.” When the shop reopened after its 10-day hiatus, it did so to lines and a dining room full of supporters.

After the initial controversy, the shop faded into the background; more than a year after the online backlash, co-owner Kevin O’Connor told the South Bend Tribune that he lamented the current political environment, saying, “Out of anger, there seems to be no getting along anymore... Just because I don’t agree with you doesn’t mean I have to hate you.”

The shop gave no reason for its closure, with some off-the-record sources telling the Tribune the family simply wanted to retire. But ultimately, the shop did end up catering at least one gay wedding celebration, if inadvertently: One couple went viral in September 2015 by announcing they chose to serve Memories’ pizzas after a same-sex vow renewal ceremony.

Indiana pizzeria that vocally opposed gay marriage has closed [Takeout]
Walkerton pizzeria once at center of national controversy has now closed [SBT]
Why Yelp Emerged as a Site for Social Protest [E]