Gamers Threaten To Pull $50 Million Convention If Indiana Gov. Signs Anti-Gay Bill Into Law

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Like Han Solo in the Millennium Falcon, organizers of a massive $50 million gamer convention have flown in to save the day—threatening to take their business elsewhere if Indiana governor Mike Pence signs SB 101, the controversial bill that would allow individuals to discriminate against LGBT people on religious grounds.

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The Indiana House and Senate both passed the bill this week, so Pence’s signature is really the last stop before SB 101 becomes law. And he’s been drooling about signing for days.

“The legislation is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact,” Pence said this week in a statement, adding that he “look[s] forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk.”

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But now Adrian Swartout, chief executive officer of GenCon has sent a letter he sent to Pence, trumpeting the convention’s history of attracting “a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities and socioeconomic backgrounds.”

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GenCon CEO Adrian Swartout

GenCon draws some 56,000 people to the Indianapolis Convention Center every year, and brings $50 million in business to the city. Participants of all ages enjoy panels, celebrities, games, cosplay and more.

The scene at GenCon 2013

The scene at GenCon 2013

Held this year from July 30 to August 2, GenCon is contracted to be in Indy through 2020. But Swartout says Pence signing SB 101 into law “will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.”

The Indianapolis travel bureau has also come out against the bill.

“It doesn’t align with the brand that is Indianapolis, and for that matter, Indiana,” a rep told the Star. “Because it could impact our ability to win convention business down the road — and keep convention business — we raised our hand and said we do have a concern.”

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h/t: Polygon, Photos: GenCon on Facebook

Dan Avery is a writer-editor who focuses on culture, breaking news and LGBT rights. His work has appeared in Newsweek, The New York Times, Time Out New York, The Advocate and elsewhere.
@ItsDanAvery