By Christopher Helton
In 2003 the Gen Con gaming convention moved to Indianapolis, Indiana. Will it be finding a new home again sooner than the 2020 that it has a contract with the city for?
Last year Gen Con had a weekend turnstile attendance of 184,699 and unique attendance of 56,614. According to the CEO of Gen Con it has an economic impact on the city of $50 million.
What is putting all of this at danger? At the heart of this matter is SB101, a so-called "religious freedom" bill that would allow business owners, based on their religious beliefs, to refuse to service customers. According to Marty Rouse, the National Field Director of The Human Rights Campaign, this would allow:
…people to pick and choose which laws they want to follow and which ones they don't. Religious freedom is important – that's why it's protected in our Constitution – but this bill is not about the right of people to practice their religion. It's about undermining basic civil rights laws and subjecting countless Hoosiers to discrimination. All people in Indiana deserve to be treated fairly and equally and should have to play by the same set of rules. We urge the House to vote this bill down and call on Governor Pence to do the right thing and veto this bill if it makes it to his desk.
Tabletop gaming has always had a sizable contingent of LGBT gamers and designers, all of whom would be negatively impacted by this bill. Gen Con wrote a letter to Indiana Governor Mike Pense. In it, Gen Con CEO and Owner Adrian Swartout says:
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…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.
Gen Con was contacted for comment, replied that they would be making no further comment at this time.
Christopher Helton is a blogger, podcaster and tabletop RPG publisher who talks about games and other forms of geekery at the long-running Dorkland! blog. He is also the co-publisher at the ENnie Award winning Battlefield Press, Inc. You can find him on Twitter at @dorkland and on G+ at https://plus.google.com/+ChristopherHelton/ where he will talk your ear off about gaming and comics.