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Maryland Politicians Spar Over Indiana Law

Christopher Connelly

Indiana is drawing fire over a religious freedom law that critics say protects people who want to discriminate based on religious principles, particularly against gays and lesbians. Sparks flew in Annapolis on Wednesday over how Maryland should respond.

In a letter penned last night, Sen. Rich Madaleno urged Gov. Larry Hogan to halt all state business with Indiana until it repeals the recently passed Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The governor’s office said Hogan prefers to engage with people he disagrees with – rather than cut ties. His aide called the letter a political stunt.

But it was the letter’s content that upset the governor. Madaleno wrote that Indiana’s law is so sweeping it opens both his own family as well as the governor’s up to potential discrimination if they visit the Hoosier state. Madaleno is Maryland’s only openly gay state senator. First Lady Yumi Hogan has been divorced.

“I’m against discrimination of any kind,” Hogan said. “But I didn’t get very far into Sen. Madaleno’s letter after he insulted the first lady. Didn’t bother reading the rest of the letter. He should be ashamed of himself.”

“I think it’s always very difficult when you talk about families,” Madaleno said when asked about the governor’s reaction. “But it’s funny: my family has been part of the political debate in the state for quite a while.”

Madaleno could cite specific plans to send Maryland officials to Indiana that would be effected by the ban on travel he proposed. But Madaleno said Maryland voters are clearly opposed to discrimination and thinks the governor should take a stand. Maryland became the first state to uphold same-sex marriage at the ballot in 2012. Madaleno pointed to other governors who have banned state business with Indiana over the religious freedom law – he cited Dannel Malloy of Connecticut and Andrew Cuomo of New York. He also cited a raft of business leaders who have opposed the Indiana law.

“Even NASCAR put out a statement saying they were appalled by the law being passed in Indiana,” Madaleno said. “He’s not even standing with NASCAR here. So I would question who is out of touch when it comes to this issue.”

Del. Luke Clippinger, who is also gay, weighed in with his own letter, this one to the Indiana businesses. The message: If you’re thinking of pulling out of Indiana, why don’t you come on over to Maryland. He suggested that instead of banning state-funded travel to Indiana, the governor should send representatives to poach businesses.

“Let’s go to Eli Lilly and talk about the great people that we have at Johns Hopkins and at the University of Maryalnd and at the NIH,” Clippinger said. “Let’s go to Cummings Engines and say hey we’ve got this great piece of land at Sparrows Point. We’ll build you a great big new factory right here and you can build all your engines here.”

The Hogan administration did not respond to a request for comment, but Clippinger’s suggestion seems like a tactic Maryland’s businessman-turned-politician might be able to get behind.

Christopher Connelly is a political reporter for WYPR, covering the day-to-day movement and machinations in Annapolis. He comes to WYPR from NPR, where he was a Joan B. Kroc Fellow, produced for weekend All Things Considered and worked as a rundown editor for All Things Considered. Chris has a master’s degree in journalism from UC Berkeley. He’s reported for KALW (San Francisco), KUSP (Santa Cruz, Calif.) and KJZZ (Phoenix), and worked at StoryCorps in Brooklyn, N.Y. He’s filed stories on a range of topics, from a shortage of dog blood in canine blood banks to heroin addicts in Tanzania. He got his start in public radio at WYSO in Yellow Springs, Ohio, when he was a student at Antioch College.