Bowser Bans Travel to Indiana Over Religious Freedom Law

Bowser banned official travel to Indiana Tuesday. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser signed an executive order Tuesday prohibiting D.C. officials and employees from approving official travel to Indiana in response to the state's controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  

The RFRA bars laws that would inhibit a person, religious institution or business from following one's religious beliefs. But critics say the law opens the door for discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people. Bowser's order said travel will be banned "until such time that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is permanently enjoined, repealed, or clarified to forbid any construction that would deny public accommodations to persons based on their sexual or gender identity."  

At a press conference in Indianapolis Tuesday, Indiana Governor Mike Pence defended the law, but said the legislature would clarify this week that the law does not allow discrimination. It is unclear whether Bowser's order was signed before or after the press conference.  

But Bowser's move is part of a national backlash against the act, with states including Washington and Connecticut also barring official travel to the Hoosier State. Bowser has also received pressure from D.C. councilmembers to restrict travel to Indiana.  

"Discrimination has no place in the District of Columbia, and our public employees should not be forced to travel to a place that prides itself on fueling anti-LGBTQ animosity," At-large Councilmember David Grosso said in a statement Monday. "The blatant bigotry on display by Governor Pence and the legislature leads me to believe that Indiana is not a safe place for our public employees to travel. Our government should not support any jurisdiction that displays such bigotry, and the Mayor should ban all publicly financed travel to Indiana and stand firmly with our LGBTQ public servants and residents."  

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