Gen Con Threatens To Move If Indiana Governor Signs Religious Freedom Bill

Indiana’s governor is expected to sign ”religious freedom” legislation this week that could protect business owners who don’t want to provide services for same-sex couples, despite a threat by Gen Con to move out of state if the law is enacted.

Gen Con is held annually in Indianapolis and bills itself as the ”best-attended gaming convention in the world”, drawing 56,000 last year, and with an annual economic impact on the host city estimated at over $50 million.

Gen Con chair Adrian Swartout’s public letter to the governor stressed the benefits of welcoming people of all backgrounds:

Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds. We are happy to provide an environment that welcomes all, and the wide-ranging diversity of our attendees has become a key element to the success and growth of our convention.

…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.

We ask that you please reconsider your support of SB 101.

Few sf conventions have the clout to make demands. In America’s largest cities a major science fiction con may not even be the biggest convention in town on a given weekend. In contrast, Gen Con is evidently the Indiana Convention Center’s biggest annual show.

However, Gen Con is under contract to hold the conference in Indianapolis through 2020. Conference spokeswoman Stacia Kirby told the Indiapolis Star there are no plans to break the contract, merely that the state’s adoption of the measure would factor into future decisions.

Gen Con’s strong appeal on behalf of diversity may come as a surprise to fans who only know about it from the kerfuffles it has inspired. In 2014, Tor.com pointed to the convention as an illustration of gaming’s “race problem”, triggering Larry Correia’s massive takedown “No Tor.com, Gen Con Isn’t Racist. A Fisking”. By calling out the governor over SB 101, Gen Con shows Correia’s faith in them was justified.

9 thoughts on “Gen Con Threatens To Move If Indiana Governor Signs Religious Freedom Bill

  1. Good for Gen Con for taking a stand against homophobia!

    Which is not what the original article was talking about, (nor was the original article saying that GenCon’s organizers were motivated by personal prejudice) but still, good for them.

  2. While I applaud Gen Con’s stand, Governor Mike Pence seems to have made it clear that he intends to sign the bill. Since Gen Con has said that they won’t leave until after their current contract expires in 2020, and Pence’s current term ends in 2017 and he can only serve two consecutive terms until 2021, Pence may well figure that either a) it will be a non-issue by 2020 or b) his successor will be blamed for the business loss.

  3. TW: It could result in some of their attendees being denied accomodations.
    It also leaves their reputation open to being sullied by association.
    In quasi-related news, I was relieved that next year’s Worldcon is in Kansas City, Missouri, and not at the venue in Kansas that they had bid for in earlier years.

  4. My prediction on what will probably happen:

    1: The Governor signs the bill
    2: GenCon realizes they are contractually obligated to stay, so they decide to “oppose the bill and consider our options”
    3: A handful of loud voices will scream “homophobia at GenCon!” over and over, hoping to make GenCon leave
    4: GenCon spends 5 years living with the law and realizes there were no incidents of discrimination involving people attending their convention
    5: GenCon stays in Indiana

  5. The mysterious AV scribbled:
    “2: GenCon realizes they are contractually obligated to stay, so they decide to “oppose the bill and consider our options” ”

    And yet, the linked article clearly states:
    “Conference spokeswoman Stacia Kirby said there are no plans to break the contract. ”

    My prediction:

    1. It is quite possible the next governor will try to have the law repealed.

    2. Businesses surrounding the convention might very put up, oh … rainbow designed GenCon logos indicating they do not discriminate. I suspect those businesses will do quite well with the 50,000 or so attendees … the others, perhaps not so much as the attendees do their own financial discrimination.

  6. From the GenCon statement: “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.”

    If we accept both the initial statement and the spokesperson’s comment that they will not break the contract, then with narrow regard to if GenCon stays or goes – that is an issue for 3-4 years from now.

    Yawn.

    Now, if they took a principally stance and acted on their unhappiness with the bill, that would news. Stickers are cheap, actions less so.

  7. A few people responded to Gen Con’s announcement with tweets of their own that they would not attend the con if the bill was signed into law. Seems to me people can vote with their feet (or wallets, or choose your own analogy) even if Gen Con decides to carry on. But will they? What is the depth of support for this protest?

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