Indiana gaming convention threatens to leave state over ‘Religious freedom’ bill
Gen Con, a major gaming convention held in Indiana, has threatened to move its event out the state if “Religious freedom” bill passes.
The bill, which was passed in the Senate in February, allows businesses and other organisations to discriminate against people if they have a religious objection to them. It is intended to “protect” businesses from having to provide services to same-sex weddings. The Indiana House of Representatives voted to pass the bill this week, and it now moves to the Governor’s office, who intends to sign it into law.
Republican Senator Scott Schneider, who wrote the bill, said “‘If you were to ask the question, what is the single most important pillar of our democracy, chances are the answer to that question is going to be freedom of religion. You don’t have to look too far to find a growing hostility toward people of faith.”
Businesses across Indiana have expressed concern that it will hurt business in the State. In a letter to Governor Mike Pence, Gen Con’s CEO Adrian Swartout said: “Legislation that could allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees will have a direct negative impact on the state’s economy, and will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.”
He said that the convention regularly attracts 56,000 attendees, with a $50 million impact on the local economy. The convention has a contract with the Indiana Convention Centre up to 2020, and no plans to end it – but organisers have made it clear the bill will affect their future location plans.
Chris Gahl of Visit Indy, the Indianapolis tourism bureau said: “Our concern is that there could be a misperception with this bill that doesn’t paint a picture of being a warm, welcoming, hospitable place. It doesn’t align with the brand that is Indianapolis, and for that matter, Indiana.
“Because it could impact our ability to win convention business down the road — and keep convention business — we raised our hand and said we do have a concern.”
A spokesperson for the Governor’s office told the Indy Star: “The Governor has been clear on where he stands on this issue and we don’t have anything to add at this time.”