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Assembly Approves Eustace & Gusciora Bill to Ban State-Sponsored Travel to States with ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws

(TRENTON) – The General Assembly on Thursday advanced legislation sponsored by Assemblymen Tim Eustace and Reed Gusciora to prohibit the state from using taxpayer dollars to fund travel to states with laws that permit discrimination against gays and lesbians. The measure was approved, 54-17-1.

The bill (A-3613) would prohibit state-sponsored travel to states that have adopted religious freedom statutes that do not include protections against discrimination.

Without explicit provisions against such discrimination, religious freedom laws may be interpreted as a defense for refusal to provide full and equal service or accommodation to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) patrons, the sponsored noted.

“States that use so-called ‘religious freedom’ laws as a guise for discriminatory and hateful policies simply do not govern in accordance with New Jersey’s long-standing belief in fairness and justice for all people regardless of race, color, creed or sexual orientation,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic).

“This legislation builds upon our strong commitment to equal treatment and stanch denunciation of policies that threaten both the liberty of individuals and the overall progress of this nation.”

The measure, which includes exemptions for emergency situations, would require state entities to immediately review all requests for travel and deny any funding or sponsorship request that violates its provisions.

“Travel to states that allow government-sanctioned discrimination is not in any way a reflection of how New Jersey taxpayers – who believe that everyone has a right to be treated with respect – want their hard-earned money to be spent,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Our state has been a pioneer in protecting the civil rights and liberties of all people, and this legislation reaffirms our commitment to standing against bigotry of any kind in any place.”

The bill will now go to the Senate for further consideration.