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Indiana Could Lose Gamers' Confab Over Lack of LGBT Protections

Indiana Could Lose Gamers' Confab Over Lack of LGBT Protections


While other factors will be considered, the presence or absence of LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination law could tip the scale when Gen Con's contract with Indianapolis is up.

A huge gaming convention that opened Thursday in Indianapolis may well seek other venues if Indiana doesn't adopt an LGBT-inclusive antidiscrimination law, says its CEO.

Gen Con CEO Adrian Swartout told the Associated Press that if a location with strong antidiscrimination protections makes a competitive offer to organizers, that could be a "catalyst" for it to leave Indianapolis when its contract expired in 2020. The city bans discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but there is no similar statewide law.

"If we have opportunity to be in places that have state protections, that might make the deal," Swartout said. "This is important to us." Chicago and Orlando, Fla., are possibilities, she said, and organizers will consider other factors, but nondiscrimination laws will be "one part of the equation."

Some activists called for the convention to leave Indianapolis after the state passed a "religious freedom" law this year that critics said could allow businesses and individuals to discriminate against LGBT people. The law was amended so as not to be a cover for discrimination or override city ordinances like that in Indianapolis, but state civil rights law still doesn't ban discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Losing Gen Con could be a big blow. "The convention draws thousands of costumed damsels, dungeon masters and role-play game aficionados to Indianapolis each year," the AP notes. "Last year, more than 56,000 people visited, bringing in an estimated $67 million in revenue."

Swartout met recently with Brian Bosma, speaker of the Indiana House of Representatives, who did not promise anything but said legislators would consider expanding antidiscrimination law, although no progress came on the issue in the most recent session. "It's appropriate for all of us to give [lawmakers] some room to try to work this out," she told the AP.

Meanwhile, Gov. Mike Pence has hinted that he feels the state is doing just fine without such a law, saying the state has had no lasting ill effects from the "religious freedom" controversy.

But some Indiana cities are moving to adopt expanded protections. This month Terre Haute added sexual orientation and gender identity to its nondiscrimination ordinance, and Goshen city officials will consider such a move Tuesday. In Elkhart, Mayor Dick Moore this week withdrew an LGBT-inclusive civil rights measure, citing lack of support in the City Council, but he plans to reintroduce it in August. Some council members have suggested a nonbinding resolution declaring Elkhart welcoming to all, but Moore deems that too weak.

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