Kansas City could lose more than $50 million a year in economic activity connected to sports events if voters approve a constitutional amendment that would allow some Missouri business owners to refuse services for same-sex weddings because of their religious beliefs, said Kathy Nelson, president and CEO of the Kansas City Sports Commission.
The proposed amendment would prohibit government legal action against businesses and professionals who refuse to provide wedding-related services of "expressional or artistic creation" to same-sex couples. The measure has passed the Missouri Senate and is pending in the House.
The NCAA, Big 12 Conference and Southeastern Conference have all expressed concerns that the amendment would not support the rights of all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation, and said it could cost Missouri athletic events in the future, The Kansas City Star reported.
The NCAA currently is considering bids from cities for events in all men's and women's sports, in all divisions, through the year 2022. That makes the current debate on the amendment particularly troubling, Nelson said.
"Of all years for this to play out, it's playing out in a bid cycle," Nelson said. "That's a major cause for concern. This could impact events held in our city for the next 10 years."
In 2013, the NCAA awarded Kansas City 16 championships through the year 2018, more than any other city in the country. Next year, the city will host the Big 12 Men's Basketball Championship, NCAA Division I Women's Volleyball, NCAA Division I Men's and Women's Basketball Regionals and numerous soccer championships. It also will also host the U.S. Figure Skating Championships.
Those events are expected to bring in $51.1 million in economic activity and $3.1 million on state tax revenue.
Indiana passed a similar bill last year but eventually repealed it after strong criticism, including from the NCAA, which has its headquarters in Indianapolis. Indiana officials estimate the state lost $60 million in convention and tourism business because of the controversy. And on Monday, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed a similar "religious freedom" bill after major corporations and Hollywood groups threatened to boycott the state if it became law.