News & Politics

DC Government Joins the Indiana Boycott

Mayor Bowser is the latest official to join the backlash against a potentially discriminatory law.

Hey, DC government workers: No more taxpayer funded trips to Indianapolis! Photograph via Shutterstock.

Mayor Muriel Bowser is imposing a ban on official travel to Indiana over that state’s newly adopted religious-freedom law, which allows businesses to cite their owners’ religious beliefs in determining whether to turn away customers, a condition the law’s critics say opens a wide door to discriminatory practices, especially against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

The law, which Indiana Governor Mike Pence said he will attempt to “fix” in a mealy-mouthed press conference on Tuesday, has already earned Indiana the condemnation and potential loss of business from numerous large companies, along with a growing crop of local governments elsewhere throughout the country, including Washington state, Connecticut, New York, Seattle, and San Francisco, where governors and mayors have suspended any business in Indiana by their public employees.

In her order, Bowser writes: “To ensure a consistent voice in policy and practice in the District of Columbia in favor of equal treatment for members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community, no officer or employee of the District of Columbia is authorized to approve any oficial travel to Indiana until such time that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act is permanently enjoined, repealed, or clarified to forbid any construction that would deny public accommodations to persons based on their sexuality or gender identity.”

To be sure, it is unlikely this travel ban will deliver a crippling blow to Indiana’s economy. A quick search of DC government financial records shows no receipts for official visits to Indiana, although Attorney General Karl Racine is in Indianapolis today to chair a panel at a conference of the National Association of Attorneys General. While Racine’s trip is currently on DC residents’ dime, a spokesman for the attorney general says that his office is seeking reimbursement from the group. The spokesman also says Racine arrived in Indiana “before widespread calls for boycotts.”

Staff Writer

Benjamin Freed joined Washingtonian in August 2013 and covers politics, business, and media. He was previously the editor of DCist and has also written for Washington City Paper, the New York Times, the New Republic, Slate, and BuzzFeed. He lives in Adams Morgan.