If Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signs Senate Bill 101 into law as he plans to do at a "private ceremony" tomorrow, the consequences could be dire: Any person or organization will be free to use "religious freedom" as an excuse to discriminate against LGBT people or anyone else who allegedly "offends" their deeply held faith.
The bill, formally called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act but decried by opponents as a "license to discriminate," passed the House last week. On Monday, Gov. Pence tweeted that he "look[s] forward" to signing it into law, and today, LGBT organization Freedom Indiana reports that the governor plans to sign the legislation at a private ceremony tomorrow.
But now that the bill is on the governor's desk, opposition the proposed legislation has intensified. In addition to the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce and business leaders throughout the state who have come out against SB101, there's another consequence that the bill's supporters might not have considered: a geek backlash.
It started with a letter to the governor from the CEO of Gen Con, the largest gaming convention in the world. The annual event draws tens of thousands of people to Indianapolis, with an economic impact of around $50 million, according to the The Indianapolis Star. No other Indiana conference comes close in terms of size and economic impact.
"Gen Con proudly welcomes a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds," wrote CEO Adrian Swartout, adding that passage of SB 101 "will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years."
The governor's office has not responded to the letter. But George Takei had a few thoughts about Indiana's fate should the governor choose to enshrine a "license to discriminate" in state law.
"If it goes into effect, Indiana will be marked as a state where certain people are not welcome, and so we will not visit," Takei wrote on Facebook Monday. "We will not spend. And we will not attend events, including GenCon, the world’s largest gaming convention, held in Indianapolis each year. Many fans here are gamers, Governor Pence, and we will demand the convention move out of your state."
In addition to the gamers, at least one sports figure is speaking out against the law: Jason Collins, the first openly gay athlete to play in the NBA. The former Brooklyn Nets center tweeted at the governor Monday, asking, "iIs it going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come to the #FinalFour?"
Despite the growing chorus of voices calling for a veto, "The governor has been clear on where he stands on this issue and we don't have anything to add at this time," spokeswoman Kara Brooks told the Star Wednesday.
While similar bills have been introduced in several conservative states that have been court-ordered to embrace marriage equality, only one state has signed such a bill into law: Mississippi. If Gov. Pence signs SB 101 into law, he will have approved legislation strikingly similar to that vetoed by then-Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer last year amid national outcry.