Indiana and Arkansas have adopted
"religious freedom" bills that have set off firestorms, as critics call the measures potentially discriminatory to gays and lesbians. The controversial laws have touched the meetings industry, as well.
In March, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) signed a bill known as the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which many interpreted as allowing businesses to refuse to serve those deemed at odds with a proprietor's religious views. The ruling drew a quick backlash from leaders of businesses such as Angie's List and Apple; groups such as the Disciples of Christ and Gen Con, the mega gaming convention, which threatened to pull future events from the state; and meetings industry groups such as the Convention Industry Council and ASAE: The Center for Association Leadership.
With the pressure building, Gov. Pence called a press conference on March 31 and said that due to what he deemed a "mischaracterization" of the act, "it would be helpful to move [new] legislation that makes it clear that this legislation does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone," which is where things stood at press time.
Also at press time, the Arkansas state legislature passed its own religious freedom law, awaiting signing by Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R), which has drawn similar criticism, notably from Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. Stay tuned, and see this month's Research column (page 20) for related content.