GenCon, one of Indianapolis’ largest conventions, is threatening to relocate its massive late-summer annual event to another city if Gov. Mike Pence signs the controversial “religious freedom” bill into law.
“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,” GenCon CEO Adrian Swartout said Monday in a letter to Pence.
GenCon, the largest tabletop-game convention in North America, drew 56,000 people to downtown Indianapolis in 2014. It was the city’s second-largest convention last year, behind only the National Rifle Association. GenCon has been a fixture in Indianapolis since 2003 and last year extended its contract through 2020. Any loss of the convention apparently would be after that date.
Versions of the religion measure, Senate Bill 101, have passed both the House and Senate, and Pence has said he was “looking forward” to signing it into law. Advocates hail the bill for strengthening protections for religious objections, but critics say it could provide legal cover for discrimination against gay people.
Some of the most-vocal critics have been major Indiana employers, including Cummins Inc. and Salesforce.com. In a letter to the General Assembly last week, Scott McCorkle, CEO of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud, wrote: "We have been an active member of the Indiana business community and a key job creator for more than a decade. Our success is fundamentally based on our ability to attract and retain the best and most diverse pool of highly skilled employees, regardless of gender, religious affiliation, ethnicity or sexual orientation."