Yesterday Indiana's Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed into law changes to his state's controversial SB 101. The measure is designed to remove concerns that the state's "religious freedom" law would legalize discrimination against the LGBTQ community.
Even before the bill was signed last week, Gen Con — the annual tabletop gaming celebration and the state capital's largest and most lucrative convention — had threatened to leave Indiana after its contract expired in 2020. That move, Gen Con claims, would withhold from the state $50 million in additional revenue each year. They weren't the only businesses to raise the alarm, with heavy hitters like Salesforce and even NASCAR both taking a position against the bill.
Yesterday's measure, passed by the state legislature 66-30, seems to have taken the teeth out of the controversial bill. For the first time in state history, it specifically makes sexual orientation and gender identity protected categories.
"No one can refuse you service under RFRA. Period."
"The freedom of religion for every Hoosier is enshrined in the Constitution of the United States and in the Indiana Constitution," Pence's Facebook statement reads. "Last week the Indiana General Assembly passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act raising the judicial standard that would be used when government action intrudes upon the religious liberty of Hoosiers, and I was pleased to sign it.
"Over the past week this law has become a subject of great misunderstanding and controversy across our state and nation. However we got here, we are where we are, and it is important that our state take action to address the concerns that have been raised and move forward."
Gen Con took the opportunity of the measure's passage to make a statement of their own, sending the following message out to all past Gen Con attendees on their mailing list under the title "Diversity, RFRA, and inclusion at Gen Con."
If you have watched or read the news over the past week, you have seen nationwide feedback on Indiana's RFRA legislation. Gen Con's CEO, Adrian Swartout, released a letter to the Governor of Indiana, preceding the legislation's signing, as well as two follow-up letters to our community on gencon.com with the intent of sharing our thoughts with the public. Simply put, Gen Con believes that diversity and inclusion are key to the success of our convention as well as to the state of Indiana.
Today, Indiana's General Assembly overwhelmingly passed an amendment to RFRA, signed by the Governor, that will remove RFRA's risk of discrimination or refusal of service statewide. The amended law will reflect Indianapolis' own longstanding human rights ordinance which includes protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With this amendment, no one can refuse you service under RFRA. Period.
We believe this is an important first step, but is just that, a first step.
The conversation on RFRA legislation has created a great dialog in Indiana, across the country, and at Gen Con itself. We know we always can do more to support diversity at our show, and are discussing some exciting new ways to increase our support for all attendees. Given the great response by Visit Indy, the Indy Chamber, Mayor Greg Ballard, and the businesses of Indianapolis, we believe that all attendees will continue to receive the warm response that we have enjoyed for more than a decade. We won't stop pushing for more diversity and inclusiveness in Indiana, and we will include new concepts and partnerships into our preparations for Gen Con 2015.
Thank you for your feedback during this discussion! Many representatives from Indy also have asked us to express their gratitude to you for your overwhelming outreach and support. Your voice has been heard in Indiana, and Indy is excited to show you its appreciation for your support. We will continue to look for exciting new ways to improve Gen Con and our attendees' experience.
Bidding for the 2021 Gen Con is already underway.
"Last weekend I called upon the Indiana General Assembly to clarify that this new judicial standard would not create a license to discriminate or to deny services to any individual as its critics have alleged," Pence wrote. "I am grateful for the efforts of legislators, business and other community leaders who came together to forge this clarifying language in the law.
"Hoosiers deserve to know, that even with this legislation, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act enhances protections for every church, non-profit religious organization or society, religious school, rabbi, priest, preacher, minister or pastor in the review of government action where their religious liberty is infringed. The law also enhances protection in religious liberty cases for groups of individuals and businesses in conscience decisions that do not involve provision of goods and services, employment and housing."