'No pizza for gay weddings' triggers one-sided LGBT fundraising battle

Thu Apr 9, 2015 10:45am EDT
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By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - When Jason Nguyen saw that a crowdfunding campaign for a pizza restaurant in Indiana that refused to provide pizzas for same-sex weddings had raised more than $800,000 in less than a week, he decided to launch his own fundraiser to counter it.

Nguyen, a 32-year-old account manager from Virginia, was taken aback to find that his GoFundMe campaign to support LGBT rights across the United States raised only $700 in its first week - and racked up a slew of negative, hostile comments.

"(I thought) surely a message of love is stronger than a message of hate and so I set up this fundraiser to counter that one," Nguyen, now living in London, England, but planning to move to California soon, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.

The state of Indiana recently passed a controversial religious freedom act but revised it in the face of widespread criticism that it discriminated against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender community.

Earlier this month, the owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, a small town in Indiana, came under fire after telling a television network that their Christian beliefs would prevent them from serving up pizzas at same-sex weddings.

The family-owned business faced intense criticism and bad reviews over the owners' comments, and an online drive for donations to support the restaurant was launched on April 1.

Support poured in, the initial goal of $25,000 was rapidly left behind and the drive raised a staggering $842,000 (566,500 pounds) before it was closed.

In a similar case earlier this month, supporters raised more than $100,000 to pay the legal fees of a Washington state florist who was sued for refusing to sell a gay couple flowers for their wedding because of her religious beliefs.   Continued...