March 30, 2015 at 2:54 pm EST | by Chris Johnson
Conn. governor bars state-funded travel to discrimination states

Dannel Malloy, Connecticut, Democratic Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Dannel Malloy (D-Conn.) is set to sign an executive order barring state-funded travel to LGBT discrimination states. (Photo public domain)

Amid continued outcry over the recently signed religious discrimination law in Indiana, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy signed an executive order on Monday barring state-sponsored travel to the Hoosier State, or other states with similar laws.

The two-term governor announced in a statement he took action the week after Gov. Mike Pence signed into law a religious freedom measure seen to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in Indiana.

The Indiana law, formerly known as SB 101, doesn’t explicitly mention sexual orientation or gender identity, but is seen as a thinly veiled endorsement of discrimination against LGBT people in Indiana. It prohibits the state government from burdening an individual’s free exercise of religion, including for the purpose of denying services or employment to an LGBT person.

“We cannot sit idly by and do nothing while laws are enacted that will turn back the clock,” Malloy said. “We need to keep moving forward and stand up against forces that seek to roll back progress. I’m sending a clear message with this executive order: Discrimination can’t and won’t be tolerated by the State of Connecticut.”

Malloy’s executive order isn’t limited to barring state-funded travel to Indiana. According to a news statement, the order bans state-funded travel to states that have enacted legislation to protect religious freedom, but don’t prohibit discrimination for classes of citizens.

Another such state would be Mississippi, where no LGBT non-discrimination protections exist, but Gov. Phil Bryant signed into law last year a religious discrimination bill.

“Nearly two decades ago, Connecticut was among the first states that passed a comprehensive anti-discrimination law concerning sexual orientation, and three years ago I enthusiastically signed a law adding gender identity and expression to those statutes,” Malloy said. “We need to do what we can to stand up and act against laws that allow – as a matter of public policy – individuals to be discriminated against. It’s unacceptable, and today, Connecticut has acted.”

The order — which takes effect immediately — directs all agencies, departments, boards and commissions, the University of Connecticut and the Board of Regents to review immediately all requests for travel funded by Connecticut to states that create the grounds for LGBT discrimination. The order prohibits publicly funded travel to these states unless necessary for the enforcement of state law, to meet contractual obligations, or for the protection of public health, welfare and safety.

Like Indiana, Connecticut is one of 20 states that has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act, or RFRA, on the books.

But the situation is different in Connecticut because the state also has a law barring discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. Moreover, the Indiana RFRA is broader than Connecticut’s RFRA. The Indiana law allows corporations to have religious beliefs, and enables individuals to claim an exemption in lawsuits brought not just by state, but by workers, tenants and customers who’ve suffered discrimination.

Pence’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request to comment on the executive order.

UPDATE: Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, a Democrat, has followed up on Monday with his own administration-wide ban on travel to Indiana in response to the state’s religious discrimination law.

“I find Indiana’s new law disturbing, particularly at a time when more and more states and people in America are embracing civil rights for everyone,” Inslee said in a statement. “Washington will join other states and cities in opposing this law and I will impose an administration-wide ban on state-funded travel to Indiana.”

Inslee recalled a lqwsuit Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed against a florist in Washington State for refusing to sell flowers for a same-sex wedding. The court agreed with the suit’s contention the refusal sell flowers violates civil rights law in the state.

“We in Washington stand for equality,” Inslee said. “I applaud those companies and organizations that have spoken out against the law and said they would not locate or expand operations in Indiana. I want to invite all those organizations, and anyone interested in a state that promotes equality and opportunity, to come visit Washington. We are open for business, and open to all people.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

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