Acting on a request from Mayor Betsy Hodges, the Minneapolis Fire Department has decided to cancel a planned trip to a conference in Indianapolis in response to Indiana's recent approval of a new "Religious Freedom" law Hodges worries could lead to anti-LGBT discrimination.
Hodges also wants the City Council to approve a policy that would prohibit the use of city funds for official business travel to Indiana.
"Minneapolis is a welcoming, inclusive city that respects and values the contributions and the safety of everyone who lives, works, and visits here, and the City of Minneapolis as an employer respects and values the same in our employees," Hodges says in a statement. "I cannot in good conscience support any official travel to Indiana in light of its enacting a law that makes discrimination legal, particularly against LGBT people.
I am pleased to support Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard and the Indianapolis City–County Council, who have called on Governor Pence and the Indiana General Assembly either to repeal the discriminatory law or to enact statewide legal protections for LGBT people. I send our best wishes to them, and to the residents and LGBT community in Indianapolis and across Indiana who are working to build inclusive, welcoming, and prosperous communities. Until the Governor and the Legislature repeal the law, enact protections for LGBT people, or both, I don't think we should betray Minneapolis residents' values by spending public dollars in Indiana, or put Minneapolis public employees at risk there.
While some have made the case that Indiana's new law isn't much different from those already on the books in 19 other states, A Media Matters post explains that Indiana's law is unique because the state doesn't have non-discrimination protections on the books for LGBT people.
Indiana's law also defines "person" in a broad way -- for instance, businesses are included. Those differences prompted the ACLU of Indiana to note that the state's new law is "virtually without precedent."
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The Minneapolis City Council will consider Hodges's request during its meeting on Friday.
In a statement, Council President Barb Johnson says that while she supports prohibiting the use of Minneapolis funds for official travel to Indianapolis, she also feels for Greg Ballard, the Republican mayor of Indianapolis who opposes his state's new "Religious Freedom" law.
"Indianapolis is one of our peer cities and chief competitors when it comes to drawing tourism and convention business, so we understand how this new law makes it challenging for them draw people to their state," Johnson says. "While we cannot support using City of Minneapolis resources to travel to Indiana at this point, we do want to underscore our support for Mayor Ballard and the City of Indianapolis in their efforts to do away with this onerous new law."