City's Tourism Study Finds Anti-LGBT Perception Direct Result Of RFRA, Continues To Affect Local Economy
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A new study just released by the City of Indianapolis' own tourism board puts the economic impact of Gov. Mike Pence's anti-gay Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) at $60 million, plus an estimated 12 conventions lost to other cities likely outside the state.
Visit Indy's VP of marketing, Chris Gahl, says 12 groups considering Indianapolis reported that the RFRA was the reason.
"In some cases, it was the only reason. In some cases, it was one of a handful of reasons," Gahl told the Indy Star. "But all 12, it was proactively brought up as a blockade from booking Indianapolis."
Mike Pence has a long and disappointing anti-LGBT history. As a Republican U.S. Congressman, Pence voted against the Hate Crimes bill, against repealing Don't Ask, Don't Tell, against ENDA, and in favor of adding an amendment to the Constitution banning same-sex marriage.
As the Governor of Indiana, Pence's anti-LGBT beliefs were on full display last year when he ignored international outcry and signed into law the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA would have made it legal for anyone to discriminate against LGBT people on the basis of religious beliefs. The outrage was so intense, Pence had to appear on national television to explain his decision, and had to ask the state legislature for a bill stating the RFRA could not be used to discriminate against LGBT people, effectively gutting it.
For months, Indiana was the focus of the nation, and drove the perception that Hoosiers are not as welcoming as their reputation claimed.
Now, several new anti-LGBT bills are being considered by Republican lawmakers in Indiana. One, which NCRM has dubbed "Repeal, Replace, Reload," would repeal the RFRA, including the statement it is not to be used to discriminate, and replace it with a sweeping, even more dangerous law that expands religious "liberty" and also adds in gun rights protections.
Image: Mike Pence signs RFRA into law in event closed to the public. Photo via Twitter.