April 1, 2015

In the aftermath of Indiana Governor Mike Pence signing the Right To Bigotry law, scores of companies, groups and governmental bodies have pulled out investments, cancelled events and enacted travel bans to the state in protest. Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic has proposed that Milwaukee County do the same:

Milwaukee County would join other state and local governments, including Dane County, in boycotting travel to Indiana due to a recently passed “religious freedom” law that uses religion as an excuse to discriminate. County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic is simultaneously requesting action along with Dane County Supervisors.

In addition to Dane County, several state and local governments, including Connecticut, New York and Washington along with the cities of Portland, Oregon, San Francisco and Seattle, have announced government-subsidized travel bans to Indiana after Gov. Mike Pence recently signed the measure, which bans all Indiana laws that “substantially burden” people’s ability to follow their religious beliefs when it comes to such matters as treatment of gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender people.

“Even the Indianapolis Star and the Mayor of Indianapolis have denounced this law,” Dimitrijevic said.“I call on County Executive Chris Abele to issue an executive order banning all tax-subsidized travel to Indiana by Milwaukee County employees. If he does not act, then the County Board should take action through my resolution.”

Companies such as Accenture, Eli Lilly, Levi Strauss and Co. have also issued company bans on doing business in Indiana. Dimitrijevic invited companies in Indiana to re-locate to Milwaukee County.

“We value fairness and equality in Milwaukee County,” Dimitrijevic said. “We have been on the right side of history by adopting domestic partnership benefits and a nondiscrimination ordinance I authored.

“Our taxpayer dollars should not be used to support bigotry, and sitting idly by without action may aid this epidemic. We are the most diverse community in Wisconsin, and I’m sure Indiana companies would benefit from locating in an atmosphere of tolerance.”

One would think that this would be a slam dunk.

Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele is a strong advocate for gay rights. He's donated tens of thousands of dollars of his own money to fight for marriage equality in Wisconsin. When the gay marriage ban was struck down, he again reached into his own pocket to keep the Milwaukee County Courthouse open late and on the weekend so that people could get married.

Yet when he was asked by WTMJ-TV about this, Abele said he refused to impose the travel ban to Indiana.

Abele was not clear why he had this sudden change of heart, but it should be remembered that even though he claims to be a Democrat, he is far from being progressive. He has been known to support the most rabid of teahadists and has praised Scott Walker, especially for Act 10 and other anti-worker legislation. Abele could be just following the lead of Walker and refusing to get involved.

It could be that Abele is still having aspirations to run for US Senator against Ron Johnson and is vying for the conservative vote.

Or it could be that Abele has money invested in Indiana and is putting his love of money over the love shared between people.

Whatever his absurd reasoning might be, Abele needs to reconsider his decision and do the right thing and not the Right thing.

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