A fundraiser for the owners of an Indiana pizzeria that became the target of widespread animosity after they said they wouldn't cater a same-sex wedding reception has collected more than $828,000 from anonymous donors.
A GoFundMe page started by a producer from The Blaze, a conservative news network founded by Glenn Beck, has drawn more than 28,500 donors.
"The intent was to help the family stave off the burdensome cost of having the media parked out front, activists tearing them down, and no customers coming in. Our goal was simply to help take one thing off this family's plate as the strangers sought to destroy them," wrote Lawrence Jones, a producer who works for Blaze personality Dana Loesch. "But other strangers came to the rescue and the total just keeps going up."
The Walkerton pizzeria was dragged to the center of a national debate over Indiana's Religous Freedom Restoration Act on Tuesday, when Crystal O'Connor told a local television reporter her family would refuse requests to cater a same-sex wedding reception because it conflicted with their faith.
The comments quickly gained national attention, as activists said the pizzeria highlighted concerns that Indiana's legislation allowed blanket protections for businesses that engaged in discriminatory practices.
Crystal's father, Kevin O'Connor, told The Times on Wednesday that he has no problem with same-sex couples, and had not sought to make a declaration that he wouldn't serve them. His daughter was simply responding to a television reporter's question, O'Connor said, and he had not been asked to cater a wedding before she made those comments.
"We service anyone. I don't care who it is. I don't care if they're covered with tattoos, I don't care if they got rings in their ears. I don't care if they're gay. The only thing I said was I cannot condone gay marriage," O'Connor, 61, had told The Times.
He expressed concerns that he might go out of business because of the comments, and later shut down the store after receiving threats, according to local media accounts.
Loesch interviewed the O'Connors earlier this week, and the GoFundMe page was started shortly after. She published a sarcastic blog post Friday dismissing the idea that the fundraising website was a cash-grab by the O'Connors or anyone else.
Jones did not immediately respond to an email request for comment. Calls to the O'Connors seeking additional comments were not returned.
The legislation at the center of the debate has since been revised. Under mounting national outrage and pressure from corporations that do business in Indiana, specifically the NCAA, Gov. Mike Pence signed an amendment to the bill that offers some protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a similarly revised measure on Thursday, after his state Legislature passed a bill that mirrored Indiana's.
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