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Gen Con CEO calls for broader LGBT protections in Indiana

The CEO of a massive gamers’ convention that threatened to leave Indiana earlier this year over a divisive religious objections law said Thursday that organizers are “shopping the show” to other cities and could relocate if lawmakers don’t expand protections for gays and lesbians.

Cities across the U.S. have courted convention organizers since Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed the initial bill in March, provoking national uproar from critics who believed it would sanction discrimination against gay people. Backlash prompted lawmakers to make changes forbidding discrimination, but they stopped short of extending civil rights protections to the LGBT community, as some cities — including Indianapolis — have done.

Adrian Swartout, the CEO of Gen Con, told The Associated Press on Thursday, the convention’s opening day, that a competitive offer from a state that grants gays and lesbians that status could be a “catalyst” pushing the event to relocate when its contract expires in 2020. Chicago has shown interest, and Orlando, Fla., also is a possibility, she said.

Even if the state had not passed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Swartout said, it would be routine for organizers to seek other offers.

“If we have opportunity to be in places that have state protections, that might make the deal,” Swartout said. “This is important to us.”

Pence opposes proposals to give lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people statewide civil rights protections. When recently asked about the possibility of Gen Con leaving over LGBT rights, Pence refused to answer.

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