DragonCon speaks out against Georgia's 'religious freedom' bill

Organizers of the Atlanta-based DragonCon announced Thursday they're lobbying Georgia lawmakers to stop a so-called "religious freedom" bill similar to one signed into law last week in Indiana.

"We have great faith that our state's leaders and legislators will, eventually, do the right thing for all Georgians," organizers wrote in a statement. "Legislation that hurts one of us, hurts us all."

The legislation would forbid state and local governments from “substantially burdening” a person’s exercise of religion unless a compelling government interest can be proved. Critics contend the bill would effectively permit business to discriminate against gays and lesbians. According to The Associated Press, the legislation was tabled Thursday in the Georgia House Judiciary Committee; the legislative session ends in three days.

In a statement, DragonCon President Pat Henry said, "Should this bill become law, we will seek written assurances from all of our business partners that they will not participate in any discriminatory behavior on the basis of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other point of identification. We have no intention now or in the future of supporting a business partner that discriminates."

DragonCon, which attracts more than 50,000 attendees, is working with the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Georgia Hotel and Lodging Association to "make our opinion known to Georgia legislators."

Earlier in the week, the Georgia Association of Convention and Visitors Bureaus sent a letter to the House Judiciary Committee warning that the legislation could taint perception of the state and lead to a loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in convention revenues.

“As of today we know of at least $15 million in convention business that has stated that they will cancel their conventions should this bill pass," the group cautioned.

The signing of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act last week by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence triggered harsh criticism from across the country. Indianapolis-based gaming convention Gen Con announced that it's begun discussions about whether to remain in the state after its contract expires in 2020.

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