It's only Monday, and it's already a terrible week for Indiana: Connecticut has joined the outrage against Indiana’s religious freedom bill by banning travel to the state. On Monday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced that he plans to sign an executive order that will ban all state-funded travel to Indiana. The travel ban follows the examples of Seattle and San Francisco, both of which have invoked similar travel bans to protest the Indiana law that is largely seen as anti-gay.
However, Connecticut marks the first state to make such a ban over the bill that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law last week. While supporters of Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act say that the law intends to protect religious freedoms by exempting business owners from actions that would bear “substantial burden” upon their religious beliefs, opponents aren't buying it.
States, cities, businesses, and even the NCAA are speaking out. Many argue that the bill stifles anti-discrimination laws and makes it permissible for businesses to refuse service to the LGBT community. Malloy sides with opponents. When he announced his state's travel ban via Twitter, Malloy decried the Indiana law as step backward in progress and said that action needed to be taken against the discriminatory nature of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Pence, on the other hand, has fought hard to defend the law and to dissuade critics of its discriminatory nature. But while Pence is trying to play off the Indiana law as similar to the Religious Freedom Restoration Acts in 20 other states, the law is actually much different.
Indiana’s law delves past dealings between a person and the government and enters into disagreements between private citizens. Unlike most states’ bills, the Indiana law explicitly includes for-profit businesses in its protections, as opposed to just non-profits. Moreover, the bill goes so far to protect the rights of the religious that it offers them legal protection from the targets of their discrimination.
While Pence says that Indiana legislators plan to add language the bill to clarify that it does not condone discrimination, he seems to be in denial of the law’s critiques. For example, when Pence appeared on ABC’s This Week, he described the attacks on the bill as the result of a “tremendous amount of misinformation and misunderstanding.” He also ineffectively dodged six yes-or-no questions about whether the law could lead to discrimination against gays. When asked whether he’d reconsider the law, he stuck by it, saying:
We are not going to change this law.
Pence’s inability to understand the criticisms and potential consequences of the bill he just signed into law make Malloy's travel ban all the more commendable. If the onslaught of criticisms isn’t waking up the Indiana governor to the realities of this new law, maybe a boycott by other states will.
Next up for a travel ban: the state of Arkansas.
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