Religion

Report: Indiana's Religious Freedom Law Cost The State Millions

| by Jordan Smith
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Indiana’s religious objections law may have cost the state up to $60 million in lost hotel profits, taxes and other revenues, according to a new study.

The investigation by Visit Indy asked 12 out-of-state organizations whether 2015’s controversial law affected their decisions on where to hold their conventions, the Associated Press reported.

All organizations surveyed mentioned the law as having played a role in their decision. The document is due to have its official launch Jan. 28.

“We’d say, ‘Why didn’t you select Indy?’ and they proactively cited the law as a reason they did not select Indianapolis,” Chris Gahl, vice president of marketing and communications with Visit Indy, told AP. “That is not news you want to hear when you are in the business of marketing a city.”

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When the law was adopted with the support of Republican Gov. Mike Pence in March 2015, it came under strong criticism nationally from groups who felt it discriminated against members of the LGBTQ community.

In response to the backlash, lawmakers made amendments the following month. But these failed to mitigate the outrage.

Kara Brooks, spokeswoman for Pence, described Indiana as a “welcoming” state and cited several groups who had decided to host conventions over the course of 2015.

AP confirmed that one organization which avoided holding its convention in the state was the International Association of Fairs and Expositions.

“There were some of our members who were aware that the city was under consideration, and a few were very vocal that they didn’t think it would be appropriate,” Marla Calico, the organization’s president and CEO, told AP.

The state Senate is set to debate a bill Jan. 27 which would provide LGBTQ people with protection against losing their job or home, or being denied a service due to their sexual orientation.

During his State of the State address earlier in January, Pence insisted he would not compromise on religious freedom.

“I will not support any bill that diminishes the religious freedom of Hoosiers or that interferes with the constitutional rights of our citizens to live out their beliefs in worship, service or work,” Pence said, according to the Indianapolis Star.

Sources: AP via WOOD, Indianapolis Star / Photo credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr, The_Bjbuttons/Flickr