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Geeks for gay rights: $50 million gaming convention threatens to leave Indiana over anti-LGBT bill

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The organizers of one of the biggest conventions in Indiana suggested they would take the event out of the state if Gov. Mike Pence (R) authorizes a bill that could allow businesses to discriminate against LGBT customers, Polygon reported on Tuesday.

GenCon LLC chief executive officer Adrian Swartout released a letter he sent to Pence (PDF) touting the convention’s history of serving “a diverse attendee base, made up of different ethnicities, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, gender identities, abilities, and socio-economic backgrounds.”

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Swartout said that the gaming convention drew 56,000 people to the Indianapolis Convention Center last year, and brings in $50 million worth of business on an annual basis. Though the event is under contract to be held in Indianapolis through 2020, Swartout said, Pence signing Senate Bill 101 into law “will factor into our decision-making on hosting the convention in the state of Indiana in future years.”

According to the Indianapolis Star, the bill would prevent state and local governments from “substantially burdening” state residents regarding their religious practices without a compelling interest.

It is reportedly modeled after the the Religious Freedom and Restoration Act, which was a key factor in the Supreme Court decision that allowed Hobby Lobby and other corporate entities to use religious grounds as the basis for opting out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive care mandate. Critics argued that the bill effectively legalizes anti-LGBT discrimination.

“It basically says to a group of people you’re second rate, you don’t matter, and if you walk into my store, I don’t have to serve you,” state Minority Leader Scott Pelath (D) said while debating the measure.

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The bill passed in the Republican-controlled state Senate on Tuesday, a day after it was approved by the state House. Pence voiced his support for the measure in a statement following the House vote.

“The legislation, SB 101, is about respecting and reassuring Hoosiers that their religious freedoms are intact,” the governor’s statement read. “I strongly support the legislation and applaud the members of the General Assembly for their work on this important issue. I look forward to signing the bill when it reaches my desk.”

A spokesperson for the Indianapolis travel bureau, Chris Gahl, told the Star that Swartout’s group contacted the agency before releasing the letter to Pence. Gahl added that his agency has also come out against the measure.

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“Our concern is that there could be a misperception with this bill that doesn’t paint a picture of being a warm, welcoming, hospitable place,” he said. “It doesn’t align with the brand that is Indianapolis, and for that matter, Indiana. Because it could impact our ability to win convention business down the road — and keep convention business — we raised our hand and said we do have a concern.”

Polygon reported that GenCon’s heavy drawing power was one factor in a $275 million expansion project that added about 200,000 square feet of floor space to the convention center. The city is slated to host the NCAA men’s basketball national semifinals and finals starting on Saturday.

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… then let us make a small request. Like you, we here at Raw Story believe in the power of progressive journalism — and we’re investing in investigative reporting as other publications give it the ax. Raw Story readers power David Cay Johnston’s DCReport, which we've expanded to keep watch in Washington. We’ve exposed billionaire tax evasion and uncovered White House efforts to poison our water. We’ve revealed financial scams that prey on veterans, and efforts to harm workers exploited by abusive bosses. We’ve launched a weekly podcast, “We’ve Got Issues,” focused on issues, not tweets. Unlike other news sites, we’ve decided to make our original content free. But we need your support to do what we do.

Raw Story is independent. You won’t find mainstream media bias here. We’re not part of a conglomerate, or a project of venture capital bros. From unflinching coverage of racism, to revealing efforts to erode our rights, Raw Story will continue to expose hypocrisy and harm. Unhinged from corporate overlords, we fight to ensure no one is forgotten.

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Elementary school cheer squad parents raffling off an AM-15 automatic weapon as a fundraiser

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Just weeks after a mass shooting in Dayton, Ohio killed nine people, only 200 miles away in Richmond, the cheer squad is selling raffle tickets to sell a semi-automatic gun.

Fox19 reported Wednesday that the Junior Lions Cheer Team have infuriated Heather Chilton, who's 7-year-old daughter is on the squad for the first time.

"This is absurd, you're having elementary kids sell your AR-15. Why?" Chilton said. "I highly doubt that something would happen with the gun, but say it did. Say one of the kids in the high school got a hold of it — got the AR-15 or AM-15 and shot up a school with it, and I'm the one that sold the raffle ticket to his dad?"

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Gov. Jay Inslee withdraws from presidential election

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Washington Gov. Jay Inslee told MSNBC host Rachel Maddow that he was officially leaving the presidential race Thursday.

He said that he got into the race with the intention of trying to raise the important issue of climate change and demand the issue be part of the conversation in the debates.

The Democratic Party has refused to have a debate that focuses exclusively on climate change, despite the numerous plans, ideas and approaches from the 20-plus candidates running for president.

He said that he isn't currently endorsing other candidates for 2020, but he hopes that his "atlas" for a climate plan will be adopted by other candidates.

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Scorching WaPo editorial tells Trump to own his bad economy and stop blaming the fed

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Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell

In a scathing piece from the Washington Post editorial board, the team at one of the nation's top papers told President Donald Trump to stop trying to pretend it's the Federal Reserve's fault for a slumping economy.

Trump has tried to claim that the economy isn't just fine, but outstanding and excelling expectations. Yet, in the same breath, Trump claims that that the Federal Reserve is responsible for all of the problems he says don't exist. It's enough for The Post editorial board to note the economic message is "remarkably dissonant."

Trump decided to that the Fed must lower interest rates and engage in “quantitative easing” to lower bonds. It's part of a tactic the Fed uses during tough times, which Trump says don't exist. Even during the worst financial crisis in a generation, in 2008, "quantitative easing" was controversial. Then there is the matter of a payroll tax cut, something Trump said he was looking at before saying he wasn't looking at it. But if there's no crisis, then why is it necessary.

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