We rarely cover politics through the Naptown Buzz channels, and tend to steer clear of anything that might be deemed political agenda based. Linus said it best when he said, “There are three things I have learned never to discuss with people: religion, politics, and the Great Pumpkin.”
So it pains me that I need to write on this subject, but the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) is an elephant in the corner of the 2015 GenCon room.
Since this where the state of things is this year, bear with me as I get a little windy, and I delve into the situation from my vantage point as a lifelong Hoosier, and Indianapolis resident. Then we’ll get on to the fun GenCon topics, I promise.
Politics and the 2016 Presidential Campaign
As everyone should be aware, the next United States Presidential election will take place on Tuesday, November 8, 2016.
Former U.S. Congressman, and current Indiana Governor, Mike Pence, had long been expected to throw his hat into race for the Republican nomination.
Now for the part where it sounds like I’ve watched too many episodes of House of Cards, or listened to too many late night Coast to Coast AM conspiracy theories.
As history repeats itself, the two major political parties like to do what they can to control who the candidate is on the opposing side, and to stir up whatever “controversy” they can around those who are running. This is usually done via media outlets, both locally and nationally.
Earlier this year Mike Pence ruffled local feathers by announcing what was said, by Gannett’s Indy Star, to be “a state–run news service that will compete with independent media”. That quickly lead to a national fiasco, as the Democratic media did not like that threat at all. Quickly that idea went away as a “misunderstanding”.
Next up, the RFRA comes into play in the 2015 Indiana legislative session. All hell breaks lose on a national level, focusing the firing squad on Mike Pence and all of the “homophobes” in Indiana.
GenCon jumps in, threatens to move the convention elsewhere after their contract is up in 2020, has talks with the Governor’s office, and Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard.
The RFRA is amended, and GenCon is reportedly feeling better about things. At least for the time being.
Via a statement from GenCon on April 2nd, “we believe that all attendees will continue to receive the warm response that we have enjoyed for more than a decade. We won’t stop pushing for more diversity and inclusiveness in Indiana, and we will include new concepts and partnerships into our preparations for Gen Con 2015.”
In May 2015, Mike Pence decides to run for another term as Indiana Governor in 2016 instead.
Strike three, he’s out.
A History of the Religious Freedom Act
Under Democratic President Bill Clinton, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 was approved on a national level.
Since then, twenty-two states have approved their own versions of the law (Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Connecticut, Florida, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas & Virginia). With Indiana and Arkansas joining the list in 2015.
In addition to those states, eleven states (Alaska, Hawaii, Ohio, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Carolina, Washington & Wisconsin) have had RFRA-like provisions handed down by state court decisions.
To my knowledge, none of these acts are specifically focused on religion versus the LGBT community, nor any other specific group for that matter, but some states do have specific clauses, or other laws, to make sure that’s not an issue. And, other than the Mike Pence connection, that would appear to be why some are worried about Indiana’s RFRA, but not the others.
Bottom line, the law means nothing until verdicts are handed down by a judge, and the RFRA would not negate the civil rights of an individual. Nor would it change how someone acts.
If you’ve stuck with me this far, thank you. Grab yourself a beverage, and let me continue down the road of what you can expect in Indianapolis when you visit.
In Indiana we have what is known as “Hoosier Hospitality”. Most of us who were born and raised here, greet everyone with open arms, and enjoy the occasional small talk over a cup of coffee and slice of sugar cream pie, or with a Coke (here in the Hoosier State it’s not a “soda”, a “pop” or a “Pepsi”, it’s a “Coke”) and breaded pork tenderloin sandwich (if you’ve not had one before, GET ONE).
We are a somewhat laid back bunch, and enjoy our local sports & hot spots. In May you’ll find many of us at the race track, and in the fall you’ll find us at a football tailgate somewhere.
But there are also a lot of people in Indy who are here by way of a job, or some other circumstance, thus they bring their own heritage along with them. We welcome them as well, and try to get them up to speed on the Hoosier way of life, and we also like to learn more about their background and their customs.
Whether it’s during the Indy 500, hosting the Super Bowl, hosting the NCAA Final Four, or hosting any of the numerous conventions that make Indy their home, I’m constantly hearing people comment on how nice the city and the people are here. Having been to some rude major cities elsewhere, it makes me appreciate my home town citizens.
What To Expect During GenCon 2015
Absolutely nothing has changed due to the RFRA being signed into law. At GenCon in 2015, and through the end of the current contract in 2020, you should expect to be treated the same way you were at the first GenCon in Indianapolis back in 2003.
Yes, you had us wondering why Wookiees & Storm Troopers had convened in downtown Indianapolis, but we didn’t hop in our AT-AT’s, but instead decided to check things out for ourselves. And personally, I’m glad that I did, because GenCon is, quite frankly, pretty awesome.
In the event you feel that you’re being treated unfairly while in Indianapolis, under the guise of religion, or for any other reason, bring it up with the management wherever you happen to be. There is only one place in town that I know of that would put up with that sort of behavior from their employees…and you go into that downtown restaurant chain expecting that since it’s their shtick. Every place else would deal with the issue immediately, and do their best to make you feel welcomed.
Now that we have this unpleasant conversation out of the way, let’s break out the games, tap the kegs and have “The Best Four Days In Gaming!” Who’s with me?!