Amid March Madness and a day after banning state-funded and sponsored travel to Indiana, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy is calling for the NCAA to either move out of Indiana or for the state of Indiana to change its new controversial religious freedom law, which is under fire for its potential discrimination against gay individuals and other groups.
"This law is going to have to be changed in Indiana or the NCAA is going to have to leave Indiana. Period," Malloy told NBC Connecticut. "You cannot be the epicenter of collegiate sports where we all know that gay men and gay women are participating alongside straight men and straight women. You cannot be the epicenter of that and be in a state that will discriminate against those individuals."
The NCAA is headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana. Malloy made the comment on Tuesday when asked if he had a stance on whether UConn men's coach Kevin Ollie should go to Indianapolis for a coaching convention this week in light of the ban on state funding for travel to Indiana.
The Indiana measure, which Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed last week, prohibits state laws that "substantially burden" a person's ability to follow his or her religious beliefs. The definition of "person" includes religious institutions, businesses and associations.
Ollie is slated to make a decision on Tuesday about whether or not he will go to the coaching convention in Indianapolis.
"Well, hopefully they're not using state dollars," Malloy said when asked if Ollie should go given the ban. "....Listen, he's a great coach and he's got to do what he needs to do to do that. It's probably at least currently covered under an exclusion that we put in the order. He may be contractually bound, we're contractually bound to the NCAA. The NCAA's going to have to move out of Indiana if Indiana doesn't right this."
The UConn women are heading to the Final Four in Tampa, Florida, but next year's women's tournament will be in Indiana and the men's Final Four is in Indianapolis this weekend. Malloy and UConn Athletic Director Warde Manuel both said they hope the NCAA moves the tournament next year.
Malloy's executive order directs all state agencies, departments, boards and commissions, UConn and the Board of Regents to immediately review all requests for state-funded or state-sponsored travel to states that "create the grounds for such discrimination." Such travel would be barred unless it's necessary to enforce state law, meet contractual obligations or protect public health. In signing the order, Malloy is standing against any discrimination against Connecticut citizens in or out of state. The order doesn't ban travel to Indiana period, but bars using taxpayer dollars to pay for the travel there.
"I think everybody knows how I feel. I don't want to be governor in a country where other states can discriminate against our citizens," Malloy said."We recognize the rights of people to be married, we have many laws in our state that say you cannot discriminate against individuals based on sexual orientation. I want to make sure that those individuals' rights from Connecticut are being protected in every state. All 50 states."
Gov. Pence on Tuesday said the bill has been "grossly mischaracterized" and subjected to "shoddy reporting," but he and legislators have been working around the clock to draft new legislation to clarify its intent.
However, Malloy said he'd prefer the legislation be repealed.
As for the Huskies, Malloy said, "they make us proud" and that he may go to the NCAA finals.
"And they make us proud even as members of the NCAA, which is currently housed in Indiana and either Indiana rights this or the NCAA should move out," Malloy said.
Socially conservative groups accused Malloy of not understanding that Connecticut also has a freedom of religion statute, similar to what was enacted in Indiana. But Malloy stressed that Connecticut law does not allow religion to be an excuse for discrimination.