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Indiana passes controversial 'religious freedom' bill opposed by Gen Con and others

Samit Sarkar (he/him) is Polygon’s deputy managing editor. He has more than 15 years of experience covering video games, movies, television, and technology.

Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed the state's controversial "religious freedom" bill into law today, leaving Gen Con and other companies that had publicly declared their opposition to the legislation to figure out next steps.

Gov. Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act during a private ceremony this morning in his office at the Indiana Statehouse (photo above).

"The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action," said Gov. Pence in a statement.

"This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it," the governor added.

Known as Senate Bill 101 until its passage today, the law stops state and local governments from preventing a person's free exercise of religion unless they can prove a compelling state interest and can do so in the least restrictive manner. Proponents of the law say they support the idea of keeping the government out of the lives of people who hold strong religious beliefs. But its opponents say the language of the law lets Indiana residents discriminate based on their beliefs, and could allow business owners to refuse service to LGBT individuals.

The organizers of Gen Con, a tabletop gaming convention held in Indianapolis, voiced their opposition to SB 101 earlier this week. Seattle-based Gen Con LLC sent a letter to Gov. Pence saying that if he signed SB 101 into law, the company would reconsider "hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years." Gen Con has been held annually in Indianapolis since 2003. Following the passage of the law, Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff announced on Twitter that the company is "canceling all programs that require our customers/employees to travel to Indiana to face discrimination."

Reached for comment today, a representative for Gen Con told Polygon that at this time, the company is "planning on another great year in Indianapolis." Gen Con 2015 is scheduled for July 30 to Aug. 2. We've also reached out to Gen Con CEO Adrian Swartout, the author of the letter, and will update this article with any response we receive.

Update: Swartout is writing a follow-up letter, Gen Con announced on Twitter this afternoon.

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