Inslee to protest Indiana law with travel ban

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee plans to issue an executive order banning state-paid travel to Indiana, joining a growing wave of protest against that state’s new law allowing businesses to refuse service to gays and lesbians for religious reasons.

“We in Washington stand for equality,” Inslee, a Democrat, said in a statement Monday evening. The governor’s counsel was still reviewing the language of the executive order, which is expected to be signed later this week.

Inslee’s move may be largely symbolic. David Postman, the governor’s communications director, said he was not aware of any state-agency travel plans that would be affected.

“I don’t suspect that there would be a large number of state employees with plans to go to Indiana,” Postman said.

But Postman said Inslee believes it was important to “speak out” against the law, which has stirred criticism across the country since Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed it last week.

Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act prohibits state and governments there from imposing a “substantially burden” on businesses, persons, religious institutions or associations for following their religious beliefs.

Pence has denied the law’s purpose is to enable discrimination, arguing in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that it has been “grossly misconstrued.”

The law has prompted nationwide protests and calls for boycotts against Indiana. Angie’s List, the popular business-review site, announced it would halt a planned $40 million headquarters expansion in the state.

Earlier Monday, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy made his state the first to announce a ban on state-worker travel to Indiana. Seattle Mayor Ed Murrayannounced a similar travel ban for city employees over the weekend.

Nineteen other states, including Idaho, have similar laws protecting religious freedoms, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. However, some critics of Indiana’s law say it stands out by enabling businesses to legally shun customers in private transactions.

In his statement, Inslee said Indiana’s law “appears to legalize private discrimination.”

He noted Washington has taken the opposite approach — fighting to enforce its nondiscrimination law with recent action by Attorney General Bob Ferguson against a Richland florist who refused to sell wedding flowers to a gay couple. On Friday, the owner of Arlene’s Flowers and Gifts was fined $1,000 and levied $1 for court costs and fees in that case.

Inslee on Monday also invited organizations shunning Indiana to consider moving to Washington.

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