Religious-freedom law would crush NOLA convention biz, says CVB chief

New Orleans convention center
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Speaking at the Travel Weekly Leadership Forum in New Orleans today, New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau CEO Stephen Perry said that when the state of Louisiana's proposed Marriage and Conscience Act went to committee, 80-85% of the city's “most important corporate customers” called to say that if it were to pass, "it’s unlikely we’re going to be able to come back here.” 

"It’s the same thing that happened in Indianapolis,” Perry said, “where there were travel bans by states and mayors and governors" in response to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which was passed into law then altered after a backlash from corporations and state and city governments.

Changes to the Indiana law made it clear that businesses were forbidden from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation.

The proposed bill in Louisiana, which protects those who act in accordance with their religious beliefs that same-sex marriage is wrong, was defeated in a Louisiana state legislature committee. At that point, Perry said, “we thought it was over.”

“Then the governor created an executive order to put it into law, which caused a lot of consternation and confusion,” he said. “The rest of the country didn’t understand what we did — that it was just a political move by the governor and that under Louisiana law, a governor can’t do that." 

"We have to stand for a nondiscriminatory marketplace, for freedom for all people, especially in New Orleans, a welcoming tolerant, environment for every human being no matter what race, gender, color, sexual orientation, philosophy or political belief,” Perry said. "That’s who we are and that’s what we stand for.”

Perry believes what has occurred in Louisiana, Indiana and other states “unfortunately is going to play out all over the U.S., the reason being that there is a nationally coordinated movement among social conservatives and deeply religious-focused organizations to begin chipping away and laying the foundation for exceptions to what they believe will be the U.S. Supreme Court in June handing down a ruling a to make same-sex marriage protected.” 

"It’s becoming a profound issue in America,” he said, “especially in cities with large conventions and special events. But based on the letters we’re seeing, it affects the leisure traveler dramatically, as well, because every one of them emotionally connects with the places they choose to go.”

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