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UNSOLICITED POLITICAL TALKING POINTS PROVIDED TO CONSTITUENTS
by Sharon Rondeau
(Apr. 1, 2015) — On Tuesday and Wednesday this week, individuals in the office of Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy‘s office have not only taken calls from the public on current affairs, but they have also taken the unusual position of defending Malloy’s attack on Indiana’s recently-passed religious freedom law.
Normally when constituents call the governor’s office, the person greeting the caller does not offer his or her opinion on the caller’s expressed views.
Malloy has banned “non-essential” travel to Indiana by Connecticut public servants, although The Post & Email learned on Tuesday that “contractual obligations” and previously-scheduled “law enforcement training” between the two states will proceed.
Malloy has sharply criticized Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for signing the religious freedom law allegedly because it does not prohibit discrimination against homosexuals. On CNN on Tuesday, Malloy said that “Nobody Who Defends [the] Indiana Law [is] Qualified to Be President.”
Malloy suggested that businesses should leave Indiana if the law is not amended.
After Malloy signed a new firearms law on April 4, 2013, Stag Arms left Connecticut, whose economy was in large part built on gun manufacturing.
Pence has explained that the law is not about discriminating against certain classes of people. A Washington, DC-based attorney agrees. A key sticking point appears to be that businesses as well as individuals can claim religious exemptions under the Indiana law and cite deeply-held religious beliefs as a defense against a hypothetical lawsuit.
A total of 20 states have religious freedom laws modeled on the 1993 federal law signed by then-President Bill Clinton.
On Wednesday, when a caller asked why Malloy is meddling in the affairs of the state of Indiana rather than taking care of matters such as the $133 million deficit caused by “A recent federal decision denying Connecticut’s claim for $63 million in Medicaid reimbursements,” the call screener responded with, “I’ll relay your comments to the governor. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion. Thank you for calling.”
The question of why a governor of one state is telling the governor of another state what to do was not directly addressed.
A call screener on Tuesday spontaneously defended Malloy’s actions to a caller by explaining that Indiana does not have an anti-discrimination law, which Connecticut does, and that it was “a positive sign” that Pence had begun to call for clarification from the Indiana legislature that the religious freedom law would not foster discrimination against anyone.
When the screener was asked if he was Malloy’s spokesperson, he said, “No, I’m not.”
Connecticut was one of 17 states plus the District of Columbia which set up health care exchanges through Obama’s health care law, Obamacare. Applicants applying for Obamacare coverage in the Constitution State are reportedly not asked to verify their income in order to qualify.
On Tuesday, the Arkansas legislature passed a law similar to Indiana’s, but Gov. Asa Hutchinson has asked for clarification that discrimination will not be sanctioned before signing it.
A writer for The Washington Post noted that states with previous religious freedom laws are not the objects of a boycott as is Indiana.
In a newsletter, the organization One Million Moms provided a list of individuals who have been fined, lost their businesses, or otherwise punished for invoking deeply-held religious beliefs in the course of their business dealings:
- Washington: Florist Barronell Stutzman fined by the state for not providing flowers for a “gay” wedding. Now her home and personal savings are at risk.
- New Mexico: Photographer Elaine Huguenin was ordered by the state to give a lesbian $7,000 for declining to take pictures of a lesbian wedding.
- Oregon: Aaron and Melissa Klein were fined $150,000 by the state for refusal to bake a cake for a lesbian wedding based on religious objections.
- Kentucky: Blaine Adamson was ordered by the city of Lexington to undergo “sensitivity training” for refusing to print T-shirts for a gay pride festival.