Gen Con is set to remain in Indiana until at least 2020, the organizers have said. The announcement came despite former threats to leave the state, if primitive anti-gay legislation was passed into law.
In an open letter published on the official Gencon website and addressed to attendees, CEO and founder Adrian Swartout said the the company would “honor its contract” with the city of Indianapolis.
“Earlier this week, I sent a letter to Governor Pence because our organization felt compelled to highlight the concerns of many attendees and exhibitors,” Swartout wrote. “The letter addressed their fear of potential right of service refusal, possible discrimination, and overall voiced our disapproval with SB101. The message this legislation sends to tourists, Indy locals, and the overall business community is one of exclusion.”
However, he went on to say: “We have a contract with the city of Indianapolis through 2020… Gen Con attendies not only will will receive the same great service and hospitality in 2015, but an even warmer response from the city.”
“I hope that you’ll join us at Gen Con, which will be inclusive and fun.”
The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was signed into State law on Tuesday admist widespread condemnation from anti-discrimination campaigners, allows businesses to discriminate against customers based on the grounds of sexual orientation. Essentially, it lets them say “No” to gay people and refuse goods and services – whether that be buying their groceries, or looking for a job. Among the many people speaking out against the law was former Star Trek actor and Indiana resident George Takei, who has been a symbol for gay geeks everywhere since coming out in 2005, and who came out in support of gaymers this week.
Takei, who is known for being vocal about the need to stamp out anti-gay discrimination, spoke out publically against the new law earlier this week. 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. “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.”
OPINION: That Anti-Gay legislation is still being passed into law, in 2015, is both alarming and disappointing. People should have the same basic rights to goods and services no matter what their color, creed, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, or gender identity. That the State of Indiana has passed SB101 into law isn’t a victory for religious business owners – it’s a blow against the basic freedoms and civil rights which the United States was created to respect and represent.
More disappointing is that Gen Con hasn’t had the courage of its convictions, and the more cynical will wonder if coming out in protest against the legislation in the first place was little more than a publicity stunt designed to generate headlines and gain support from the LGBTQ community.
Gaming is, by its nature, supposed to be inclusive – uniting people in the simple joy of play. Any legislation which could be used to persecute gamers – or anyone, for that matter – is regressive and goes against the spirit of friendly competition and co-operation that dominates our favorite pasttime, and it’s a shame that Gen Con hasn’t done more to stand up for the basic human rights of prospective attendees and the many thousands of gay people in Indiana.