Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr. Wednesday said he meant no offense when he mentioned Gov. Larry Hogan’s wife in a letter written a day earlier about a controversial Indiana religious freedom law.
Madaleno, a Montgomery County Democrat who is also openly gay, asked Hogan in the letter to ban all state-funded travel to the Hoosier State until a repeal of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which some critics say would allow businesses to use religious believes as a pretext for discrimination against gay couples.
In making his point, Madaleno wrote that religious beliefs could also be used to discriminate against Yumi Hogan, the First Lady, who divorced her first husband.
“I’m trying to make a point about how sweeping that type of law is and how it puts many families in Indiana and Maryland at risk for a variety of reasons,” Madaleno told reporters. “We all have aspects of our lives that probably someone else would find offensive or objectionable from their own religious stance. They shouldn’t be able to deny us service or discriminate against us because of that and that’s the point I was trying to make.”
But the mention of the First Lady three sentences into Madaleno’s letter irritated Hogan. A spokesman said the governor stopped reading the missive and called the communication a “political stunt.”
The letter also drew criticism from Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., though he did not name Madaleno.
“Sometimes we’re right, sometimes we’re wrong,” said Miller. “Once in a while we say things and we don’t fully understand the consequences. We had a letter going out the other day that mentioned someone’s spouse and I’m not going to get into details but we’re all big men and women and we’re all partners in this and we don’t mention anyone’s spouse in any type of correspondence, anyone’s spouses or children.”
Madaleno said he had not personally talked to Hogan but said he wanted to “make sure that I by no means was meaning any disrespect. In fact, when I speak about it in the letter, I said I find that his family were exemplary ambassadors of the state of Maryland. I think everyone has been very impressed with our First Family.”
Madaleno said he simply wanted to make the point that many people, both in Indiana and Maryland residents who visit that state, could face public humiliation whether because they are in same-sex relationships or are divorced.
“I think it’s always difficult when you start talking about families,” Madaleno said. “My family has been part of the political debate in this state for quite a while. I think it’s important to understand how many families are at risk and I think it’s sometimes shocking to people who think, ‘We’re talking about those people but not talking about us.’ Well, in fact that’s how broad and sweeping this legislation is. The vast majority of people in Maryland, if visiting Indiana, would probably be at risk, at risk of discrimination.”