The freedom of one group may affect that of another. Indiana Senate Bill 101, titled the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), provides protection for private Indiana businesses to operate according to religious beliefs. In practice, the law has the potential to cause discrimination against certain customers, such as LGBT.
The Convention Industry Council (CIC), an organization that champions the economic and social value of the meetings and event profession, submitted the following letter on March 31 to Indiana Governor Mike Pence in response to RFRA, which he signed into law on March 26.
Dear Governor Pence:
On behalf of the Convention Industry Council, I respectfully request that your office continue to work with the general assembly and the hospitality community in the state to adopt corrective language that clarifies that the law does not allow discrimination of any kind against any segment of the population. The Convention Industry Council represents 33 associations in the meetings, conventions, exhibitions and travel industry who collectively represent more than 103,500 individuals and 19,500 firms and properties involved in the meetings, conventions and exhibitions industry.
An unintended consequence of this law has been the reaction of many businesses who are considering not holding future meetings and events in Indiana. Not only would this be harmful to economic well-being of the state, but it would injure the very people who are employed by the hospitality industry and who may be subject to discrimination due to this legislation.
Meeting destinations in Indiana have a reputation for delivering world-class hospitality and service to all visitors and meeting attendees. This legislation does much to harm the view of Indiana as an inclusive and welcoming community.
Thank you for your immediate attention to this important matter.
Karen Kotowski, CAE, CMP
Chief Executive Officer
Several conventions and events threatened to leave Indianapolis in response to the signed law. The largest show held annually at Indiana Convention Center, Gen Con, is contracted until 2020, but has publically stated it is considering alternative convention destinations for future shows.
Gen Con owner and CEO Adrian Swartout wrote letters to the governor and attendees, disapproving of the law.
“For more than a decade, Indianapolis has provided tremendous hospitality and accommodation to our attendees, culminating in an estimated annual economic impact of more than $50 million [sic] to the city,” stated Swartout. “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.”
In response to expressed concerns, Gov. Pence provided assurance in an article in The Wall Street Journal that the law did not indicate any sexual orientation and had been “grossly misconstrued.”
“I want to make clear to Hoosiers and every American that despite what critics and many in the national media have asserted, the law is not a ‘license to discriminate,’ either in Indiana or elsewhere. Indiana’s legislation is about affording citizens full protection under Indiana law,” Gov. Pence wrote.
The governor went on to state that RFRA emulates a federal law passed by President Bill Clinton in 1993 to protect the free exercise clause under the First Amendment by disallowing the government from infringing upon a person’s religious liberty.
On March 31, Gov. Pence called for the law to be clarified by the first week of April.
See related article
Gen Con supports amended Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Indiana amends Religious Freedom Restoration Act
IAEE openly disapproves Religious Freedom Restoration Act
Indiana to lose Gen Con over religious law