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Indiana pizzeria that declined to cater same-sex weddings closes for good

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 4/24/2018 Justin L. Mack
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A northern Indiana pizza shop that garnered national attention at the height of Indiana's religious freedom law debate is no longer in business.

The South Bend Tribune reports that a sign placed on the front window of Memories Pizza in Walkerton tells customers that the shop was closed last month. Area business owners contacted by IndyStar Monday confirmed news of the closure.

Calls placed to Memories Pizza went directly to a busy signal. Calls placed to a listed number for Memories Pizza owners Crystal and Kevin O'Connor went unanswered.

a group of people in a room: Customers wait for service as Memories Pizza reopened Thursday, April, 9, 2015, in Walkerton, Ind. The restaurant’s operators said they'd gone into hiding after their comment that they would not serve pizza to a gay wedding prompted an avalanche of criticism on social media. © Tom Coyne/AP Customers wait for service as Memories Pizza reopened Thursday, April, 9, 2015, in Walkerton, Ind. The restaurant’s operators said they'd gone into hiding after their comment that they would not serve pizza to a gay wedding prompted an avalanche of criticism on social media. The restaurant in the 2,200-person town of Walkerton, about 20 miles southwest of South Bend, went from being largely unknown to being on the lips of people nationwide in April 2015 as it became one of the first businesses to publicly say it would refuse service to a gay wedding, a scenario opponents of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act law feared would happen.

In an interview with a South Bend television station, Memories Pizza owners said they would refuse to cater a wedding for a gay or lesbian couple due to religious reasons, but they said they would not deny service based on sexual orientation.

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The backlash from the interview forced the business to temporarily shut its doors, and police beefed up patrols around the shop.

At one point, the police asked the St. Joseph County prosecutor to review the case of a local woman who commented on Twitter: "Who's going to Walkerton with me to burn down Memories Pizza."

But the shop did attract a number of supporters. Employees of conservative television network and website The Blaze created a GoFundMe account for the restaurant, saying it hopes to raise money to recoup the profit losses the owners are experiencing. The page went on to raise more than $842,000.

During the temporary closure, Crystal O'Connor told TheBlaze that her family was thinking of leaving Indiana.

"I don't know if we will reopen or if we can," O'Connor told the outlet.

But the shop eventually reopened to a supportive crowd, and remained in business until last month.

Only 19 states and the District of Columbia have laws that protect people from discrimination in public accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity, according to a report from the Movement Advancement Project (MAP), a think tank that researches and analyzes state and federal laws with LGBT implications.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling sometime this year on a landmark case involving a Colorado baker's refusal to design a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, the latest test in the continuing legal battle between gay rights and religious expression.

Follow Justin L. Mack on Twitter @justinlmack

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