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.