By Kathleen Burke, Crain News Service
DETROIT (April 10 2015) — Four major auto makers with operations in Indiana have made public commitments to non-discrimination in response to the state's controversial recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
The act — recently signed into law by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence and set to take effect July 1 — allows businesses in the state to act based on “sincerely held religious belief.” The legislation's language has ignited concerns nationwide that companies in Indiana will be able to legally discriminate against certain groups including homosexual customers and employees.
On March 31, Gov. Pence defended the law during a nationally televised news conference. However, he said he would seek a bill from the state legislature “making it clear the law does not allow businesses the right to deny services to anyone.”
Subaru of America Inc., American Honda Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) — as well as other major corporations — have weighed in on the debate.
In a March 30 statement, Subaru spokesman Michael McHale wrote: “We at Subaru do not agree with any legislation that allows for discrimination or any behavior or act that promotes any form of discrimination.... We will certainly continue to take the issue of non-discrimination into consideration as part of our decision-making processes.”
Subaru's plant in Lafayette, Ind., produces the Legacy and Outback and the Toyota Camry, and employs about 3,900 workers.
In Greensburg, Ind., Honda assembles the Acura ILX, Civic Sedan, Civic Natural Gas and Civic Hybrid with a workforce of about 2,000.
“Discrimination in any form is contrary to Honda's fundamental belief in respect for the individual,” Rick Schostek, executive vice president of Honda North America, wrote in a statement March 31. “We encourage the legislature to take action to assure that Indiana is a welcoming place to visit, live, work and do business.”
GM, which operates plants in Bedford, Kokomo, Marion and Fort Wayne, Ind., said in an emailed statement that it strives for an “inclusive” environment for its employees, “including members of the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) community.”
FCA, which operates its transmission plant in Kokomo, Ind., with a workforce of about 3,400, said in a statement April 1 that it reiterated its “zero tolerance policy for discrimination.”
While businesses such as San Francisco-based cloud computing company Salesforce have pledged to avoid operations in the state in opposition to the law, auto makers have not made similar threats.
This report appeared on the website of Automotive News, a Detroit-based sister publication of Tire Business.