HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy was named this year's recipient of the John F. Kennedy Profile in Courage Award on Monday, lauded for his public support of the resettlement of Syrian refugees in the United States after the Paris attacks.
Kennedy's grandson, Jack Schlossberg, credited Malloy with taking "a stand against the hateful, xenophobic rhetoric" at a time when some governors and presidential candidates sought a ban on Syrian refugees. Schlossberg said Malloy could have chosen the politically expedient course and remained silent on the issue but instead announced three days after the attacks that Connecticut would continue to accept refuges from Syria.
"In doing so," Schlossberg said, "he put principles above politics and upheld my grandfather's vision of America that, he said, 'has always served as a lantern in the dark for those who love freedom but are persecuted, in misery, or in need.'"
In November, Malloy personally welcomed to Connecticut a Syrian family that had fled the war-torn country in 2011 and planned to resettle in Indiana. But the couple and their 5-year-old son were turned away when Republican Indiana Gov. Mike Pence ordered state agencies to halt resettlement activities after the Paris attacks.
Malloy, chairman of the Democratic Governors Association, said Monday that he was "deeply honored" by the tribute. However, he said it was not a difficult decision to welcome the family amid what he called "a fair amount of ignorance" on the refugee situation.
"What I have always stood for is a more inclusive society where people recognize their obligations to one another," said Malloy, who last week barred state-funded travel to North Carolina in response to a new law he and other critics contend is discriminatory to members of the LGBT community. Last year, Malloy temporarily banned state travel to Indiana because of a new religious objections law he said was discriminatory toward gays.
Malloy said he hopes the award, which will officially be presented May 1 in Boston, will send a message to others.
"I think that fundamental to being an American is appreciating people's rights to practice their religion," Malloy said. "It's who we are."
Malloy, who is serving his second term, is not the first Connecticut governor to receive the award. In 1992, independent Gov. Lowell P. Weicker Jr. was honored for his efforts to pass a personal income tax to address Connecticut's financial woes in the face of strong public opposition, including large-scale protests and threats.