New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy announced separately on Saturday that they had lifted their bans on state-funded travel to Indiana, after the state’s Republican governor, Mike Pence, signed into a law a revision of his so-called “Religious Freedom” law, which critics called a license to discriminate against gay people.
“After reviewing the amendments made to Indiana’s state law and consulting with LGBT advocacy groups here in New York, I believe the changes enacted by the Indiana Executive and Legislature should prevent the Religious Freedom Restoration Act from being used to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgender citizens and travelers,” Cuomo said in a statement. “As a result, I am lifting New York’s ban against state funded and state sponsored travel to Indiana, effective immediately.”
Malloy released a statement moments later saying he had lifted his own ban, arguing that “the change enacted by the Indiana legislature sufficiently clarifies, in our interpretation, that the law cannot be used to invite discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Outrage exploded on March 26 when Pence signed the controversial bill into law, provoking an immediate backlash from LGBT activists and high-profile groups like Wal-Mart, the NCAA, and even Nascar. Under the original version of the law, businesses could cite a religious objection to any government action – such as, for example, a non-discrimination ordinance – and use those beliefs as a legal defense to infringe on the rights of non-religious third parties. That could include, for example, same-sex patrons looking to buy a cake for their wedding.
Govs. Cuomo and Malloy, both Democrats, responded by banning non-essential state-funded and state-sponsored travel to the state.
Exactly one week after approving the bill, Pence backed down, signing a legislative “fix” to make clear that the law could not be used by businesses to discriminate against patrons on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Arkansas Republican Gov. Asa Hutchinson signed a similarly scaled-back version of the state’s own religious freedom measure the same day.
On Saturday, Malloy took a victory lap. “We are gratified that several other states, businesses, trade organizations, and so many stood with us, and we are pleased that numerous states besides Indiana have sought or are seeking changes in their laws with the specific aim of preventing discrimination,” he said in the statement. “We will continue to monitor other states that enact reforms similar to the original Indiana RFRA, because discrimination in any form is unacceptable.”
Emma Margolin contributed reporting.