Religious Objection Laws Cost Indiana Millions in Revenue
Back in March of 2015, Governor Mike Pence of Indiana officially signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which prohibits any state law that would substantially burden a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. Although it might seem like a good idea for the state to provide freedom of religion, it poses the possibility of discrimination against the LGBT community. Because of the controversy surrounding this law, it was determined that the state lost roughly $60 million in revenue for the state. So how exactly did a controversial bill lose the state millions of dollars?
Visit Indy Tourism group survey
The Visit Indy Tourism group was able to come up with a document that showed 12 out-of-state groups made the decision to hold their events in another location, specifically because of the state's religious objection law. The entire state lost at least $60 million in hotel profits, tax revenue, and other economic benefits because these groups decided against Indiana as a location site for conventions and other events. In their survey, the tourism group asked conventions why they chose to relocate, without any prompting of the religious objections law. However, all 12 groups gave the law as a reason for choosing a city other than Indianapolis, Indiana's largest metropolitan location. President of marketing and communication for Visit Indy, Chris Gahl, said that it not news they wanted to hear especially since he is in charge of marketing for the city of Indianapolis.
Governor doesn't see a problem
Even after Visit Indy was able to come up with information regarding the lack of conventions taking place in the state, a spokesperson for the Governor said that Indiana is still a welcoming state and has a strong economy. Spokeswoman Kara Brooks noted that there are still multiple organizations ready to do business in Indianapolis, including the NFL scouting combine, and Future Farmers of America group event. Gahl did not make the names of the 12 conventions public, however the Associated Press was able to confirm one organization, and why they chose a different location. The International Association of Fairs and Exposition usually hosts a four-day event in Las Vegas, Nevada, but wanted a new location. Indianapolis was in the running, but Marla Calico, president and CEO for the association, said that members didn't think it was an appropriate location considering the religious objections law. Still, during a State of the State speech, Governor Pence said that not everyone believes that the state's business economy has been harmed. With numbers around $60 million in lost revenue, that is definitely a debatable statement.
LGBT issues to be discussed
The main reason that the religious objections law has caused such controversy is because of the discrimination it could have on the LGBT community. Two bills regarding LGBT issues are going to be discussed by the Indiana Senate. One of these bills would provide statewide protection to individuals fired from a job, denied a service, or evicted because of their sexual preference or gender identity. This is definitely a step in the right direction for the state of Indiana in providing equal religious and LGBT rights for all.