Something has happened over the past few days that, at first, I didn’t want to mention, though I’ve decided to after grueling over it since yesterday. Yesterday Indiana Governor Mike Pence signed into law Indiana SB 101, or what some have called the “religious freedom bill”. This bill, among other things, basically says that businesses can choose to refuse service or discriminate against anyone based upon religion or sexual orientation.
Now I don’t consider myself very political, but one thing I do stand for is the right of equality and respect between us humans. I don’t believe it’s fair to say that two people can’t marry based on sexual orientation, and I also don’t believe it’s right to refuse them service if they’re upstanding citizens. When it comes to my hobby, tabletop gaming, there’s one thing that stands out: we’re all gamers. No matter what walk of life you come from, we all roll dice together. Once a year we all gather at the Indianapolis Convention Center to celebrate our love of gaming and meet thousands of those that share this love. The event we travel to is called Gen Con, and it’s easily the most financial gain for the entire city – and state – when it comes to events.
People from all over the world flock to Gen Con each year, and these people are from many different avenues of life. One of the best things about Gen Con is the amazing service attendees receive from local businesses in the area. Plenty of times business owners have said that Gen Con is the best thing that happens all year. Even more have said that the Gen Con crowd is the best crowd they have ever received – and this continues each year.
With this bill being passed it is completely possible for some of Gen Con’s attendees – even those who have been loyal for years – to be discriminated against by businesses in the area. Gen Con CEO Adrian Swartout has written both a letter to Gov. Mike Pence and a letter to the Gen Con attendee community at large. The first letter was written urging Pence to reconsider signing the bill. Obviously Mike Pence didn’t plan on not signing the bill, and even did so behind closed doors where he wouldn’t be judged. In response to the bill being signed, Swartout released a second letter to the community, especially those planning to attend the convention this year.
In her first letter Swartout spoke about the fact that Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, comprised of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, identities, and backgrounds. The convention brings an estimated $50 million to the city annually, and its attendees look forward to the same great hospitality and service each year. Any piece of legislation that could allow discrimination or refusal of service would directly impact Gen Con and therefore hurt the state’s economy. On top of this, Gen Con would be looking into other business opportunities for the convention in other areas of the U.S.
The letter went to Pence’s desk and was signed without a second glance. As you’re reading this Indiana SB 101 is now in effect. After seeing Pence’s reaction to everything that was thrown at him in the media, Swartout decided to write a letter to Gen Con attendees to let them know of Gen Con’s plans for the future.
The letter to the community details the progression of Gen Con and where the convention is headed. For years Gen Con has prided itself with acceptance, and with the inclusion of people from all walks of life. Swartout made sure to mention that, over the years, Gen Con has had the pleasure of sharing relationships with many local Indiana businesses, and feedback on her original letter to Pence was very positive. A majority of the business community is not in favor of SB 101, and will be doubling down to ensure that attendees for Gen Con 2015 will enjoy another great year of gaming, great service, and overall acceptance. Gen Con is in a contract with Indianapolis until 2020 and the company plans to continue that contract until its end. Negotiations and planning on what to do with Gen Con for 2021 and after have already begun, but Swartout wants to welcome everyone to Gen Con this year with the same open arms as always.
Personally, I am not fond of this new bill. On one hand I can see it as allowing those with religious beliefs to uphold those beliefs without fear of persecution or government intrusion. On the other hand I can see the bill stifling same-sex couples, those who have opposing religious beliefs, and many others. For instance, I am a guy with piercings and visible tattoos. Many people, religious types included, feel that tattoos are only negative and brand you as a vagabond for life. It’s very probable that I could walk into a business, even with the best of intentions, and be refused service simply because their owner has an issue with tattoos. This law would back them up.
I am someone who believes in equality for all. I fully believe that you write your own story. If you’re an honest, kind-hearted citizen then your actions will show it. If you’re a complete jackhole then we’ll treat you like one because you deserve it. But when it comes to those that get treated wrongfully just because they associate with something that’s not mainstream or that’s unliked, we have a problem.
I still plan on attending Gen Con 2015 and I want to make this the best year yet. We’ve got some surprises up our sleeves for everyone, so we hope you’ll come out too. This bill won’t stop us, and we’ll show just how awesome we all are – no matter where you come from. Keep rolling those crits, gamers.