Dem gov: Pence was ‘stupid’ to sign law

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By Keith Laing – 03/31/15 12:49 PM EDT
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy (D) on Tuesday criticized Indiana Gov. Mike Pence for signing a state law that critics say would allow businesses to deny service to gay people.

“The reality is the governor is not a stupid man, but he’s done stupid things. And signing this law, and quite frankly promoting this law, knowing exactly what it was going to do, was an incredibly stupid thing for him to do,” Malloy said during an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

“A member of the Army can be gay. And they go into a coffee shop in Indiana under this law and someone says because you’re gay, even though you’re wearing the uniform of the United States of America, I’m not going to serve you,” Malloy continued. “That was the intent of this law.”

The Indiana law has drawn a storm of criticism and threats from businesses to leave or avoid the state. Malloy on Monday signed an executive order to ban state-funded travel to Indiana until it is reversed.
“You get the picture from who was around him when [Pence] signed this bill. There were three homophobic men standing alongside the governor. One of them had equated being gay with bestiality. That’s who he invited to the signing ceremony. He knew exactly what he was doing. And when you see a bigot, you have to call him on it,” Malloy said.

With the backlash growing, Pence called Tuesday morning for state lawmakers to quickly pass afix to calm fears about discrimination against gay residents.

“It would be helpful to move legislation this week that makes it clear that this law does not give businesses the right to deny services to anyone,” Pence said at a press conference Tuesday morning.

“We want to make it clear that Indiana is open for business, we want to make it clear that Hoosier hospitality is not a slogan, it’s our way of life.”

Under the statute as it was previously enacted, business owners are exempt from actions that would place a “substantial burden” on their religious beliefs. Opponents of the law say the language could allow wedding vendors to deny service to same-sex ceremonies, for example.

Malloy said Tuesday he hoped the backlash against the Indiana law would continue to grow until the state backtracked on the legislation.

“I don’t think people in Indiana want to discriminate this way, but somehow they got people in the Legislature to pass this very law that would legalize discrimination in Indiana,” he said. “Indiana is the home of the NCAA. NCAA should not play any tournaments in that state any longer until Indiana recognizes the rights of gay men and gay women.”

Pence, who has been seen as a potential GOP presidential candidate, blamed the media and critics of his law for much of the controversy.

He said he believes the law “does not give anyone a license to deny services to gay and lesbian couples,” and that the law had been mischaracterized.

“The proper legislative remedy is to focus on the perception that has been created by the misunderstanding,” he said. “This was grossly mischaracterized by advocates who opposed the bill and, frankly, sloppy reporting.”

Ben Kamisar and David McCabe contributed to this report.