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Shumlin Courts Union Conference After Indiana Boycott

Amid national controversy over Indiana’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Vermont Gov. Peter Shumlin has invited one of the many groups boycotting Indiana to host its national conference in Vermont.

Shumlin is courting the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. The union announced plans to change the venue for its 2015 Women’s Conference, originally scheduled to take place in October in Indiana.

“This un-American law sets Indiana and our nation back decades in the struggle for civil rights,” union officials wrote in a statement on the union’s website. “It is an embarrassment and cannot be tolerated. As such, AFSCME will move our 2015 Women’s Conference in October from Indianapolis to another state.

Indiana’s law has come under fire from critics who say it gives businesses a legal basis to deny service to gays and lesbians.

Shumlin, in a letter to union President Lee Saunders, said Vermont values are more in line with the union’s philosophy.

“Our state has a long, proud tradition of supporting equal rights,” Shumlin wrote. “Vermont was the first state to outlaw slavery and the first state to legislate marriage equality simply because it was the right thing to do, not because a court mandated it.”

Shumlin offered to work with the union “to determine if Vermont has facilities that can accommodate your conference, and if so, relocate it to the Green Mountains.”

AFSCME officials have not yet announced a new venue for the conference.

Shumlin has become a target for labor advocates recently, with his push to cut hundreds of state jobs in an effort to close the state’s budget gap.