Skip to content

Indiana Signs Controversial Bill Into Law, Update

Indiana legislature has passed the SB101 bill that critics say will allow businesses to deny people service based on religious grounds. There have been many that are critical of the bill, most importantly for gamers, Gen Con LLC sent a letter to governor Pence, saying that the company may reconsider having their annual convention in Indianapolis if the bill passed.

So now it's a waiting game to see how the replies to the passage of the law will be.

Update: GAMA has shown their support for Gen Con LLC's concern over the issue. Their release posted below.

From the report on CNN:

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law on Thursday a measure that allows businesses to turn away gay and lesbian customers in the name of "religious freedom."

The bill has sparked an uproar among gamers and church groups that hold their conventions in Indianapolis and businesses that are threatening to pull out of the city.

Even the NCAA -- which is less than two weeks from hosting its men's basketball Final Four in Indianapolis -- was critical, saying the organization is "committed to an inclusive environment where all individuals enjoy equal access to events" as it hinted the bill could damage the city's reputation as a host of major sporting events.

Jason Collins, who last year became the first openly gay active NBA player, asked Pence in a tweet whether it is "going to be legal for someone to discriminate against me & others when we come" to the Final Four in two weeks.

Still, Pence signed it in a private ceremony in his office Thursday. In a statement explaining his decision, he pointed to President Barack Obama's health care law -- which triggered a lawsuit by Hobby Lobby to ensure the company wasn't required to cover birth control through its employees' health insurance plans.

"The Constitution of the United States and the Indiana Constitution both provide strong recognition of the freedom of religion but today, many people of faith feel their religious liberty is under attack by government action," Pence said.

The move comes as Pence considers a bid for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination -- and just a year after Pence and socially conservative lawmakers lost their first policy battle against gay Hoosiers. In 2014 they had sought to amend Indiana's constitution to ban same-sex marriages -- but were beaten back by a highly-organized coalition of Democrats, traditionally right-leaning business organizations and fiscally focused supporters of Pence's predecessor, former GOP Gov. Mitch Daniels.

This year, though, the Republican-dominated state House and Senate both approved the "religious freedom" bill -- in part because it didn't receive the kind of public attention the gay marriage ban had drawn until it was already close to landing on Pence's desk.

Pence said in an interview with the WIBC radio station in Indianapolis on Thursday that the new law became controversial "because of the way some in the media have reported this."

Without referencing gay rights directly, he insisted that "this is not about any contemporary issue."

"This was a measure that frankly, Indiana should have enacted many years ago," Pence said. "It gives our courts guidance about evaluating government action and puts the highest standard -- it essentially says, if a government is going to compel you to act in a way that violates your religious beliefs, there has to be a compelling state interest."

Indiana doesn't currently have a law on the books protecting Hoosiers from discrimination based on sexual orientation. But a dozen counties do -- and opponents of the "religious freedom" law have said they're worried the new measure will be used to allow businesses to get around those local rules.

"The way the media has covered this in certain quarters -- I understand the concern that people feel," Pence told WIBC, pointing to the early-1990s congressional adoption of a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

If Pence decides to mount a dark horse presidential bid -- which looks increasingly unlikely as candidates like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker court the same supporters he would need -- the "religious freedom" bill could give him a boost among GOP primary voters, especially in socially conservative states like Iowa.

That right wing support had slipped after Pence, who built reputation during 12 years in Congress as a die-hard social conservative, broke from his party's orthodoxy earlier this year as governor and launched an expansion of Medicaid coverage -- with some conservative tweaks -- under President Barack Obama's health care law.

But signing the "religious freedom" bill could also badly damage his prospects in a general election, where polls have shown that voters increasingly oppose policies that discriminate against gays and lesbians.

Proponents have argued the bill doesn't target gays and lesbians specifically -- but that it does protect businesses that don't support same-sex marriage from having to provide services for those ceremonies.

Other states have passed similar laws. Eighteen others have similar measures on the books, and social conservatives have been re-energized in their push for "religious freedom" laws after the Supreme Court's decision in a health care-related case that allowed Hobby Lobby and other businesses to opt not to provide insurance coverage for contraception.

Also fueling the push: The Supreme Court's expected ruling in June on whether same-sex marriage is constitutionally protected and therefore legal in all 50 states.

The release from GAMA on the situation:

GAMA (The Game Manufacturers Association) wholly supports Gencon’s courageous position concerning Indiana bill SB101 and the convention’s future association with Indianapolis if Governor Mike Pence signs the bill into law. GAMA’s member manufacturers make up a substantial portion of Gencon’s exhibitors and annually look forward to interacting with all game enthusiasts at the show. GAMA and its members have supported Gencon since the association’s inception in 1977, and back Gencon’s decision on SB101.

“The gaming industry has always been open to anyone with a love of games. Each year our audience grows more and more diverse,” said GAMA’s Executive Director John Ward. “Gencon’s choosing to take a stand for fair treatment for all of their attendees is simply the right and proper thing to do.”