A Democratic lawmaker made a strange accusation during a hearing over Indiana’s proposed “religious freedom” bill, claiming a Republican lawmaker’s 18-month-old baby was “scared” of her because she is black.
During a debate over the Religious Freedom Restoration Act on March 23 in the Indiana House, Rep. Vanessa Summers decided to steer the conversation in a different direction.
“I told (Rep.) Jud McMillin I love his son, but he’s scared of me because of my color,” Summers said. “It’s hard.”
Other lawmakers groaned at the statement, but Summers assured them, “It’s true.”
When asked about her comments after the meeting, Summers stood by her statement.
“He looked at me like I was a monster and turned around and cried,” she said. “And I told him you need to introduce your child to some people that are dark-skinned so he will not be scared.”
The bill being discussed aims to protect free exercise of religion, but its opponents — including Summers — argue that it will enshrine discrimination in state law, the Indy Star reports.
McMillin responded to Summers’ claim and defended his 18-month-old son.
“It’s just incredibly unfortunate,” he said. “You’d think that we would have professional discussion on the House floor and certainly be able to avoid having 18-month-olds in the discussion.”
“I can tell you that if he reacted the same way he reacts with everybody brand new, he buries his head in his dad’s shoulder,” McMillin continued. “Whoever it is, it’s what he does. He’s an 18-month-old kid; he’s in a new environment up here in the place like the Statehouse but doesn’t know anybody.
“I honestly don’t remember anything out of the ordinary.”
House Speaker Brian Bosma also called Summers’ comment “unfortunate.”
“I’d agree it was an unfortunate comment,” Bosma said. “But what’s said is said. On an emotional issue for folks, they sometimes say things that aren’t advisable. That’s probably one of these times.”
Bosma added that lawmakers are advised to avoid mentioning family members of colleagues, especially if the comment is negative. He did not say if Summers would be sanctioned in any way for her comment.