Visit Indy: $60M impact from RFRA, public hearing on bills scheduled for Wednesday

INDIANAPOLIS -- $60 million. That's what Visit Indy says RFRA may have cost the state. 

The organization is measuring lost revenue from organizations that took their conventions elsewhere. The findings come ahead of a scheduled debate on civil rights and religious freedom set for Wednesday. 

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The religious freedom act sparked rallies, prompted boycotts, and the leaders of major businesses and the NCAA to speak out. Organizers of one of the city's largest conventions threatened to take their business elsewhere. 

"It's something we take note of. We've been sharing that information with elected officials," Chris Gahl with Visit Indy said. 

For the first time, we're learning the economic impact of the controversial law. Gahl did not provide the names of the dozen conventions that located elsewhere, but he said the events range in focus from education to faith. 

"We're working with a sense of urgency to keep them alive and hopefully help turn their attention back to Indianapolis," Gahl said. 

Money is not the only thing potentially at stake. For many, Wednesday's discussion on bills dealing with LGBT civil rights and religious freedom is deeply personal. 

Kevin Bothwell owns Vital Skates in Fountain Square. He identifies as transgender, and he plans to make a case for full statewide protections to lawmakers Wednesday. 

"I want lawmakers to understand that transgender people aren't people who need to be studied. We're human beings just like them. We've got a lot of similarities. Far more in common than we have differences," Bothwell said. 

A representative for Indiana Right to Life plans to testify. Spokeswoman Sue Swayze says the exemptions for religious organizations are narrow. She says they don't protect the religious liberty of pro-life pregnancy resource centers or adoption agencies. 

"It's more how we have the freedom to hire our boards, our volunteers, how our organizations are run on our principles," Swayze said. 

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