On Tuesday we brought you the news that Gen Con, the four day gaming convention (and one of my favorite conventions of the year) sent a letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pence warning the convention may leave the state if SB 101, the supposed “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” was singed into law. The convention, as many else also feel, felt the legislation is discriminatory, and would “allow for refusal of service or discrimination against our attendees.”
The Governor is so proud of the bill, he signed it into law in a private ceremony. Indiana becomes the first state this year to enact such legislation out of the dozen or so states in which similar proposals have been introduced.
The fallout from the legislation signing was quick and fierce. Salesforce, on the the top software as a service companies out there, has decided to “dramatically reduce” their investment in Indiana. The CEO of the company Marc Benioff said in a series of Tweets:
Gen Con isn’t the only convention to take place in the state. Awesome Con expanded this year to host a convention in Indianapolis as well. We’ve reached out to both conventions for further comment as to their plans or reactions, but have not heard back as we went to press.
Geek conventions don’t have the best record when it comes to these things. In 2010, Arizona signed into law SB 1070 which some say unfairly targets Latinos, and is a violation of the civil rights of all Arizonans. Boycotts of the state due to the law cost the state over $141 million in 2010. Announced in 2010, but launched in 2011, the Amazing Arizona Comic Con was launched, though calls for boycotts were still in full effect. We questioned the choice of not just the convention, but those attending and supporting it. Companies who “champion” diversity and inclusion, and “pushing comics forward” have had no issues pumping money into the economy of a state which clearly cares little of these things. Though, in fairness, Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a bill similar to the one Gov. Pence just signed into law. So, they just dislike people of darker skin there, but homosexuals are ok.
We’ll keep on this story as Gen Con has promised a follow up letter today. The convention in 2011 committed to stay in Indianapolis until 2020.
Pence released the below statement after signing the pill into law:
Today I signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, because I support the freedom of religion for every Hoosier of every faith.
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.
One need look no further than the recent litigation concerning the Affordable Care Act. A private business and our own University of Notre Dame had to file lawsuits challenging provisions that required them to offer insurance coverage in violation of their religious views.
Fortunately, in the 1990s Congress passed, and President Clinton signed, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act—limiting government action that would infringe upon religion to only those that did not substantially burden free exercise of religion absent a compelling state interest and in the least restrictive means.
Last year the Supreme Court of the United States upheld religious liberty in the Hobby Lobby case based on the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act, but that act does not apply to individual states or local government action. At present, nineteen states—including our neighbors in Illinois and Kentucky—have adopted Religious Freedom Restoration statutes. And in eleven additional states, the courts have interpreted their constitutions to provide a heightened standard for reviewing government action.
In order to ensure that religious liberty is fully protected under Indiana law, this year our General Assembly joined those 30 states and the federal government to enshrine these principles in Indiana law, and I fully support that action.
This bill is not about discrimination, and if I thought it legalized discrimination in any way in Indiana, I would have vetoed it. In fact, it does not even apply to disputes between private parties unless government action is involved. For more than twenty years, the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act has never undermined our nation’s anti-discrimination laws, and it will not in Indiana.
Indiana is rightly celebrated for the hospitality, generosity, tolerance, and values of our people, and that will never change. Faith and religion are important values to millions of Hoosiers and with the passage of this legislation, we ensure that Indiana will continue to be a place where we respect freedom of religion and make certain that government action will always be subject to the highest level of scrutiny that respects the religious beliefs of every Hoosier of every faith.
And a Tweet by the Governor: