Wednesday, March 25, 2015

GenCon Fights Back Against GLBT Discrimination in Indiana

There's a bill circulating through the Indiana General Assembly that would enshrine discrimination against homosexuals.  While the fighter in me says that maybe it's time to find out whether or not sexual orientation is a protected class deserving of intermediate or (dream on) strict scrutiny), those results are a long way down the road.  The IN Senate has already passed a version and the IN House has passed a nearly identical bill.  The Senator sponsoring the original legislation has indicated that he's okay with the House's changes, so the bill will likely head to Governor Pence late this week or early next.

According to SB 101's own digest, it's purpose is:
Religious freedom restoration. Prohibits a governmental entity from substantially burdening a person's exercise of religion, even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless the governmental entity can demonstrate that the burden: (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering the compelling governmental interest. Provides a procedure for remedying a violation. Specifies that the religious freedom law applies to the implementation or application of a law regardless of whether the state or any other governmental entity or official is a party to a proceeding implementing or applying the law. Prohibits an applicant, employee, or former employee from pursuing certain causes of action against a private employer.
The lawyer in me notes that this is pretty weak and basically already follows a standard for interpreting 14th Amendment law.  I'm going to shy away from discussing that--at least today.  But, on a positive note, GenCon has written to Indiana's governor, urging him not to sign the bill.  GenCon's letter notes that:
  • It hosts more than 56,000 attendees every year;
  • Many of these attendees are of a diverse group--the group targeted by SB 101;
  • GenCon has been in Indy more than 10 years now;
  • GenCon annually brings more than $50 million to the local economy; and
  • Legislation that allows discrimination based on these matters will be taken into account when GenCon makes decisions about where to locate in future years.
You can read the full letter here.  Now, I'll bet that GenCon's location is already set for several years out, but this still sends a very strong message.  When businesses stand up for diversity, political leaders--especially moderate ones--take notice.

The full bill is available online (SB 101--still looking for House version) and you can read it here.  I'll do some analysis on what it does in a following post.  The HRC doesn't have anything up yet, but click on the link soon and I'm sure they'll have methods for you to reach out to Governor Pence as well.

EDIT: This is getting big.  Both Ars Technica and ICv2 have stories covering the GenCon letter.