Cuomo's travel ban on Indiana includes UB Athletics

UB joins the ranks in crusade for equality in statewide outcry against Indiana's prejudicial new law


The University and its Athletics program are joining the ranks of organizations and individuals making a stand against Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which arguably legalized discrimination before it was amended Thursday evening.

UB’s softball and women’s tennis teams won’t be traveling for planned games in Indiana this weekend – an action worth lauding. This boycott’s impact on UB has given the school an opportunity to support civil rights and equality and take part in what is amounting to an impressive, nationwide display of political moxie and social activism.

Prior to the amendment, the law in question – which drafters claim was intended to protect state residents’ freedom of religion – didn’t just protect individuals’ right to practice their chosen religion, but also gave them free reign to discriminate against others on the basis of their religious beliefs, without repercussion.

While we commend Indiana for making the necessary amendment to the law, it didn’t come until after nationwide backlash.

Although 19 other states have their religious freedom laws and a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act passed in 1993, Indiana’s statute had critical differences in its language – differences that sparked a justified and impressive uproar.

This law, unlike current statutes, explicitly gave all for-profit businesses the right to exercise their religion freely – some state laws even deny businesses this license outright – and ensured the law could be used by businesses as a defense against lawsuits.

These differences – which Gov. Mike Pence claimed to merely be a matter of unclear language – gave businesses the right to openly discriminate against individuals who they claim impinge upon their religious freedom.

The amendment to the bill forbids “providers” from providing service to anyone based on sexual orientation, as well as “race, color, religion, ancestry, age, national origin, disability, sex, gender identity or military service.”

A clause that should have been in the law in the first place.

Understandably, advocates of civil rights, particularly lesbian, bisexual, gay or transgender individuals and their supporters, found the original law unacceptable.

From Hillary Clinton to Apple CEO Tim Cook, public figures expressed their outrage, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo joined their ranks.

Not only has the governor spoken out against Indiana’s prejudicial law, but he also took action, imposing a ban on all non-essential, state-funded travel to the state. Cuomo hadn’t repealed his executive order by Thursday evening.

Cuomo’s not alone in his commendable decision, as Connecticut and Denver have joined the protest, and organizations like the NCAA, which currently runs the Final Four Tournament in the state, have voiced concerns about hosting future events in Indiana.

The travel ban is a fantastic form of protest. It’s a boycott, pure and simple, one that shows Indiana, and the nation, that New York will not accept the legalization of bigotry and state-supported prejudice.

It’s also a protest with legitimate consequences for the state – fewer visitors means less money incoming to the area, and even more negative press for Pence and his compatriots, as the bans pit Indiana against more liberal, less discriminatory state governments.

Of course, the travel ban has consequences that affect the innocent, too.

As a result of the ban, the women’s tennis team and softball team cannot play Ball State in Indiana this weekend as originally planned.

But this is ultimately only a minor inconvenience, one which fades away when contrasted against the bigger picture. Still, it’s unfortunate the women’s tennis team will no longer be able to play and that a neutral site for the softball team is still in limbo.

But – though the outcome is not ideal – it’s ultimately a privilege to be included in a meaningful protest, one that will likely force the now-humiliated Indiana to change its law.

UB Athletics and President Tripathi rightfully expressed no complaints about the ban, with Tripathi releasing a statement aligning himself with Cuomo’s point of view.

It’s unclear if Cuomo will lift the band following Thursday evening, but it’s ultimately refreshing to see UB take an aggressive stance on a topic many skirt.

This editorial was updated on Thursday, April 2 at 11:15 p.m. to reflect the amendment made to Indiana's Religious Freedom Restoration Act.