Traveling to Indiana using Connecticut state funds is now a no-go, thanks to an executive order issued by Gov. Dannel Malloy on Monday.
Joining similar bans already in place by cities including Seattle and San Francisco, Connecticut has become the first state to institute such a ban, which Malloy issued in protest of the passing of Indiana’s recent Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Malloy denounced the act, which Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed into law last week, as “disturbing, disgraceful and outright discriminatory” to the LGBTQ community.
“It’s our shared past where discrimination was codified into our laws,” Malloy said at a Monday press conference. “That system should remain in the history books and not be reborn in this country state by state.”
The new Indiana law permits individuals and businesses to employ religious claims as a part of their legal defense in cases beyond only those between individuals and government. The law, according to its proponents, is structured similarly to both a federal RFRA passed in 1993 as well as numerous religious freedom laws in other states.
Indiana’s RFRA has drawn nationwide controversy, facing criticism from government officials, local newspapers and even Saturday Night Live, while corporations such as Apple and Walmart have also spoken out against the law.
Pence defended the act on national television last Sunday, claiming that the act served to protect the constitutional rights of religious liberty.
“This avalanche of intolerance that’s been poured on our state is just outrageous,” Pence said on Sunday.
Malloy followed up on the executive order with an opinion piece published in TIME Magazine yesterday, in which he claimed that Pence signed the law despite being aware of its discriminatory nature.
Yesterday, Pence proceeded to call for clarification of the language within Indiana’s RFRA. However, he stated in a press conference that the need for a “fix” was more in light of the bill’s negative perception as opposed to the contents of the bill itself.
“I don’t believe for a minute that it was the intention of the General Assembly to create a license to discriminate or a right to deny services to gays, lesbians, or anyone else in this state,” Pence said. “And it certainly wasn’t my intent. But I can appreciate that that’s become the perception not just here in Indiana but all across this country, and we need to confront that, and confront it boldly in a way that respects the interests of all involved.”
Malloy’s ban also extends to the Board of Regents and the University of Connecticut. The governor addressed concerns regarding sports games between UConn and the University of Indiana during a press conference on Monday, saying that he hopes football and basketball games would not be played in Indiana. A spokesman for the UConn athletics department declined to comment on the law.
UConn President Susan Herbst announced yesterday evening that the men’s basketball coaching staff would not attend the Final Four conference or other related activities in Indiana this week.
But some political experts suggest that Malloy’s actions are hypocritical in light of Connecticut’s own RFRA.
Sean Davis, co-founder of the conservative web magazine The Federalist, said that Connecticut has had an RFRA since 1993, one which is more expansive than Indiana’s. According to Davis, Connecticut requires individuals who claim that their religious rights have been abridged to prove only a “mere burden” while Indiana’s law requires proof of a “substantial burden” on those rights. Davis highlighted that Indiana’s law is not a “get out of jail free card.”
However, the Connecticut and Indiana laws are not comparable, according to Dan Klau, supervising attorney for the Yale Law School Media Freedom and Information Access Clinic. He cited distinctive language within the Indiana law that would make it easier for both business owners and individuals to discriminate against LGBT individuals. Furthermore, Klau highlighted the two different legislative histories behind the laws. Connecticut’s RFRA was passed over two decades ago in response to a Supreme Court decision regarding the use of peyote.
“By contrast, the legislative history of Indiana’s law seems to be strongly supported by people who do want small business owners to discriminate,” Klau said.
Chairman of the Government and Politics Department at Sacred Heart University Gary Rose said the governor’s executive order is both “very partisan and very political.”
Malloy, who is the incoming chairman of the National Governor’s Association, has rallied a Democratic base in his past two elections, while Pence has contemplated both the GOP nomination for president and a re-election campaign for governor.
Currently, 20 states have Religious Freedom Restoration Acts.