• by Kirk Gaw

End Of An Era "Memories Pizza" Has Closed

Last Saturday marked the end of "Memories Pizza" after 12 years of operations in Walkerton with the O'Connor family. On March 10th Crystal herself, now grown up, posted a note on her internet page. She was cornered one school night by who seemed to be a friendly TV Reporter from ABC 57. 22 year old Crystal, who came in after school to help her Dad behind the counter of their family business was just a kid!

In March 2015, the General Assembly passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which supporters claimed would protect the religious rights of business owners, but critics denounced it as leading to discrimination against potential LGBT customers. Under a national outcry of publicity and criticism, Gov. Mike Pence eventually pushed an amendment to the bill adding LGBT protections.

In the midst of this, the South Bend TV reporter apparently drove to downtown Walkerton and spotted a religious Easter display inside the restaurant.

The reporter who no longer works at the station asked Crystal how she felt about serving gay people and whether the shop would cater a gay wedding?

Even though Memories Pizza had never been asked to cater a gay wedding, or any weddings? Never mind that Crystal politely told the nice young woman that they'd never deny service to any customers in the pizza restaurant?

The TV reporter was nice, the O'Connors recall. She told them she agreed with them, and that she edited her own work and would NOT make them look bad.

Photo by RJ Greer and Crystal O'Connor

So when Crystal, and then her father, said on camera they would turn down an opportunity to cater a gay wedding because of their religious disagreement with gay marriage, they were surprised when Memories Pizza quickly became the national face of Hoosier intolerance.

"RFRA: Michiana business wouldn't cater a gay wedding," the TV station's headline read that night, March 31, 2015. And replicated many times later on-air and online: "Restaurant denies some service to same-sex couples," accompanied by a map graphic titled "Crossroads of Controversy."

No reference was made that night or in follow-up reports since about whether the reporter traveled to any other small towns in Michiana, or spoke with any other small-business owners?

From Crystal O'Connor on behalf of Memories Pizza

The O'Connors felt betrayed and really were unable to define their story through the whole ordeal! The LGBT community were unforgiving and jammed their phones, internet sites, and protested outside. They even recieved death threats! Also, much of the period during the controversy the community for the most part continued to understand that Crystal was just a kid and that she only iterated at the spur of the moment her religious beliefs about gay marriage? The media did not include that Memories Pizza continued to serve long time gay customers?

- Virginia Black, South Bend Tribune, CNN

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