Amid controversy, Hogan administration calls request for Indiana travel ban a 'stunt'

A  spokesman for Republican Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday called a gay lawmaker's request for a ban on state-funded travel to Indiana a "political stunt."

Democratic Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. called for the ban in response to an Indiana law that critics say allows businesses to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people on religious grounds.

Governors and mayors across the country have banned official travel to Indiana. Businesses including Wal-Mart and NASCAR have said such "religious freedom" laws foster intolerance and exclusion.

Madaleno wrote to Hogan on Tuesday that Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act could lead to "public humiliation" for the governor and other Maryland officials.

"Your family, an exemplary ambassador for the State of Maryland, could be denied service due to a random business person, waiter, or clerk's objection to the First Lady's previous divorce," the Montgomery County lawmaker wrote. He was referring to first lady Yumi Hogan.

"My family could be denied service in Indiana because of my marriage to another man," Madaleno wrote.

Hogan spokesman Doug Mayer dismissed Madaleno's letter as a "stunt."

"Governor Hogan is opposed to discrimination in all forms and 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," Mayer said in a statement.

Mayer said Hogan stopped reading the letter "once he saw that Sen. Madaleno had brought his wife, the first lady, into the scenario."

The governor has not taken a position on Indiana's law.

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, signed into law by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence last week, requires state and local governments there to show a compelling interest before interfering with an individual's exercise of religious beliefs.

Similar laws exist in other states. Supporters say the law protects religious liberty.

But it has drawn criticism because Indiana lacks separate laws protecting LGBT people from discrimination.

After a national uproar, with threats by businesses to pull out of the state or cancel plans to travel there, Pence called on lawmakers Tuesday to pass legislation to clarify that the law does not allow business owners to discriminate when providing services.

Madaleno said focusing on his mention of Yumi Hogan's divorce sidesteps the broader issue.

"I'm trying to make a point about how sweeping this type of law is, and how it puts many families in Indiana and in Maryland at risk," Madaleno told reporters. "We all have aspects about our lives that probably someone else would find offensive or objectionable from their own religious stance. They shouldn't be able to deny us service or discriminate against us because of that."

Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller took issue with Madaleno's mention of the first lady, telling senators Wednesday that "we don't mention other people's spouses in any type of correspondence — their spouses or children."

Democratic governors from New York, Connecticut, Washington and Vermont have issued bans on state-funded travel to Indiana. District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser and her counterparts in Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver have also announced bans.

A spokesman for Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said she is "assessing what would be the most effective and appropriate way to show her support for the LGBT community following passage of this discriminatory piece of legislation."

Another gay Maryland politician took another tack.

Del. Luke Clippinger, a Baltimore Democrat, sent an "open letter to Indiana businesses" to a dozen newspapers there Wednesday, inviting them to move to Maryland to avoid intolerance.

Clippinger said he sees the controversy as an opportunity. He began his letter with the phrase Hogan has affixed to signs at the state's borders: "Maryland is open for business."

"Unlike Indiana," Clippinger wrote, "we treat all of our citizens with dignity and compassion."

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