Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) on Wednesday rejected a request by an openly gay state lawmaker to ban state-funded travel to Indiana until that state repeals its newly enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
Critics say the law — which has triggered a firestorm of reaction across the country — could allow businesses to discriminate against gay people and others in the name of religious freedom.
“My family could be denied service in Indiana because of my marriage to another man,” Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. (D-Montgomery) wrote in a letter to Hogan on Tuesday. “Many of our colleagues could also be denied service because of an Indiana business owner’s objection to a Marylander’s marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity, appearance, or a myriad of other excuses.”
D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) issued an executive order Tuesday banning city-funded travel to Indiana until the law is repealed. The Democratic governors of Connecticut, New York and Washington state have taken similar action.
Doug Mayer, a spokesman for the governor, said Hogan does not plan to institute a ban. “Governor Hogan is opposed to discrimination in all forms,” Mayer said. “History has repeatedly proven that the best way to effect positive change is through an engagement of ideas, not disengaging from those we disagree with. Political stunts like this are precisely what Maryland voters rejected in last year’s election.”
Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) submitted a letter to the Indianapolis Star on Monday that urged Indiana businesses displeased with the law signed last week by Gov. Mike Pence (R) to relocate to “open and welcoming” Virginia.
The commonwealth passed a religious liberties law of its own in 2007. But its focus is on government intrusion into the free exercise of religion, rather than on religious clashes between individuals and businesses.
McAuliffe spokesman Brian Coy said the governor is not planning any ban on state-funded travel to Indiana. “No, he’s working on convincing Indiana businesses who are concerned about this recent development to travel to Virginia and bring jobs with them,” Coy said. “In fact, he’s hoping to travel there himself and recruit businesses.”
A Maryland lawmaker borrowed McAuliffe’s idea Wednesday, circulating “an open letter to Indiana businesses” that encouraged them to move to Maryland. “With their profoundly divisive action, your state policymakers made it harder for you to attract world-class talent,” wrote Del. Luke H. Clippinger (Baltimore), chairman of the House Democratic Caucus. “Governor Pence and his cronies put you at an extraordinary competitive disadvantage.”
Pence strongly defended the law at a news conference Tuesday, focusing on the legal grounds granted to individuals and businesses to defend themselves against claims of discrimination. But he said that the intent of the law was never to allow discrimination and that the state will “fix” that to make clear that businesses cannot deny services to anyone.
Madaleno wrote in his letter that Maryland has been a leader in providing legal recognition and protections for all state residents.
“When other states pass these prejudicial laws,” he wrote, “Maryland needs to stand up for our values.” The Democrat said Indiana’s law would allow businesses to discriminate against people on the basis of their marital status, sketching a scenario in which first lady Yumi Hogan could be refused service because her first marriage ended in divorce.
Mayer said that when Hogan reached that part of Madaleno’s letter, he stopped reading.
The letter drew a rebuke Wednesday from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr. (D-Calvert), who cautioned lawmakers against mentioning relatives of fellow elected leaders in written correspondence.
“We had a letter going out the other day that mentioned someone’s spouse,” he said. “We’re not going to get into details, but we’re all big here, men and women. And we’re partners in this, but we don’t mention other people’s spouses in any type of correspondence — their spouses or children.”
Madaleno said he was “trying to make the point about how sweeping this type of law is and how it puts many families in Indiana and in Maryland at risk for a variety of reasons.”
He said he was “very sad” to hear that Hogan considers bans and strong stances against the Indiana law to be political stunts. Referring to the racing group that issued a statement Tuesday opposing the legislation, Madaleno added, “He’s not even standing with NASCAR.”
“We all have aspects about our lives that probably someone else would find offensive or objectionable from their own religious stance — but they shouldn’t be able to deny us service or discriminate against us because of it,” Madaleno said. “And that’s the point I was trying to make.”
Madaleno acknowledged that it’s “always difficult” when family members become part of political discussions, but he added: “My family has been part of the political debate in this state for quite a while.”
Laura Vozzella in Richmond contributed to this report.