Gov. Cuomo bans state funded travel to Indiana over religious freedom law

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Tuesday banned nonessential, state-funded travel to Indiana over its religious freedom law that critics say opens the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians.

The ban applies to all state agencies and public colleges and universities - meaning students and faculty would not be able to participate in athletic or academic events in Indiana. Exceptions would be made for travel deemed "essential to the enforcement of state law or public health and safety."

"With this action, we stand by our LBGT family members, friends and colleagues to ensure that their rights are respected," Cuomo said in announcing the travel restrictions.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio issued a similar ban Tuesday on city-sponsored travel to Indiana. Essential travel including trips by law enforcement would still be allowed.

Similar bans have been enacted by the governors of Washington, Vermont and Connecticut.

Lawmakers in New York had called on Cuomo to issue the travel ban. Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat who is the only openly gay member of the state Senate, said the law "is an assault on basic civil rights."

Ed Cox, the New York state Republican Party chairman, dismissed Cuomo's move and noted that the Democratic governor plans a visit next month to Cuba, a country where he said "political dissidents are imprisoned and tortured."

"Now that Andrew Cuomo has banned travel to Indiana, he can cancel his upcoming trip to Cuba," Cox said in a statement. "Or he can admit that both moves are political stunts meant to bolster his national profile with no grounding in reality or substance."

Supporters of the Indiana law say it's intended to protect religious liberty. On Tuesday, Indiana Gov. Mike Pence said his state has a "perception problem" and he wants legislation to "clarify" the law.