House Takes First Step in Banning Official Travel to Discriminatory States | Off Message

House Takes First Step in Banning Official Travel to Discriminatory States

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Rep. Paul Poirier urges House members to support a resolution asking other states to protect citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientiation. - TERRI HALLENBECK
  • TERRI HALLENBECK
  • Rep. Paul Poirier urges House members to support a resolution asking other states to protect citizens against discrimination based on sexual orientiation.

By a 119-1 vote, the House passed a resolution Friday asking the governor, legislature and judiciary to ban travel to 13 U.S. states that allow discrimination. It also calls on all states to pass laws protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Financial embargoes do work,” Rep. Jim McCullough (D-Williston) declared as House members were about to vote.

The resolution, H.R.8, comes in response to recent laws passed in Indiana and other states to protect religious freedom, which were widely criticized for also permitting faith-based discrimination against gays.

Indiana took action Thursday to alter its law, but Rep. Bill Lippert (D-Hinesburg) said it wasn’t enough. Only 20 states offer legal protection against job discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, he said.

Rep. Warren Van Wyck (R-Ferrisburgh) cast the lone dissenting vote. He didn’t explain his vote on the floor but had a written statement handy. “Vermont has plenty of challenges within its border,” he wrote. “I am not interested in passing judgments on the actions of the legislatures of 49 other states unless they directly affect the substantive well being of the state of Vermont and its residents.”

Twenty nine House members were absent for the vote, perhaps because it fell on Good Friday and Passover. Some of the no-shows who were in other parts of the building appeared to be uncomfortable denouncing Indiana’s law. A disproportionate number of Republicans — 17 — skipped the vote, along with 10 Democrats and two independents.

To see who voted how, click here to see the roll call vote on the legislative website.

Rep. Paul Poirier (I-Barre) said 13 states have religious freedom laws or executive orders that allow discrimination, though the resolution did not list them. Poirier said they are: Alabama, Idaho, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

“If there’s an NGA meeting in Oklahoma, Shumlin would not be able to go unless he pays his own way,” Poirier said, referring to the National Governors Association.

Whether the state really will ban official travel to all 13 remains unclear. Gov. Peter Shumlin wouldn’t commit to it Friday. “We’re making great progress in sending a clear message that the Indiana law is abhorrent to Vermonters and most people with a conscience, and I hope we’re having some effect in encouraging the governor and the legislature to rethink a very bad bill,” he said.

It was also unclear Friday whether the House had any plans to impose the travel ban on its own members, some of whom attend legislative conferences in other states. The resolution "urges the Judicial and Legislative Branches of State government to adopt" such a policy, but the House took no additional steps in that direction.

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