An Indiana pizzeria which refused to serve same-sex weddings has reportedly lived up to its name: Memories Pizza in Walkerton quietly closed up shop last month, announcing its shutdown with a sign that now hangs in its window.
The unassuming father-and-daughter operation became an unexpected focal point of national controversy in April 2015 after owners Kevin and Crystal O’Connor claimed their religious beliefs precluded their ability to serve pizzas to same-sex weddings. The O’Connors, however, clarified that all were welcome to dine in the restaurant.
“We are a Christian establishment,” Crystal O’Connor told the local news station WBND-TV. “We’re not discriminating against anyone. That’s just our belief, and anyone has the right to believe in anything.”
Kevin O’Connor would later add that “it is not right for a man to marry a man and for a woman to marry a woman.”
“People could end up marrying trees,” he said. “Come on!”
The comments were extremely ill-timed. Just weeks before the O’Connors warned about an outbreak of dendrophilia if same-sex marriage were legalized, the state of Indiana passed a bill allowing businesses to discriminate against members of the LGBTQ community based on their “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
After former Gov. Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) into law, the government would not have the ability to prevent Memories from turning away same-sex couples.
Indiana’s RFRA law would later be “fixed” to excise discriminatory elements following a $60 million boycott of the state, and the O’Connors personally felt the brunt of that backlash. The shop was forced to close for eight days in 2015 after protesters trolled its Yelp page by posting negative reviews.
The owners also reported receiving death threats. A local softball coach was terminated from her position after threatening an arson attack against Memories on Twitter.
“Who’s going to Walkerton with me to burn down Memories Pizza?” she asked.
But Memories would finish the controversy in the black after conservative blogs championed the business. The Blaze, a right-wing news site operated by Glenn Beck, raised more than $840,000 to benefit the pizzeria through a GoFundMe campaign, and the shop reopened to long lines.
Sources in Walkerton say that Memories didn’t close due to financial difficulties or locals boycotting the business. The O’Connors, they claim, were simply ready to retire.
In fact, Kevin O’Connor has said that he wouldn’t do anything differently if he could. His only regret is the scrutiny to which the small South Bend suburbwhich numbers just 2,100 residentswas subjected. He claimed the city is filled with “good people” who weren’t deserving of “the kind of negative attention they are getting because of this.”
Kevin O’Connor has continued to deny the business had discriminatory intent.
“That’s not what this is about,” he claimed, adding: “I don’t care if they are gay. I don’t care if they walk in on their hands. I don’t care if their heads are attached to their knee. They are more than welcome to come in and eat.”