Indiana lawmaker says legislator's toddler was 'scared of' her because of her race

A Democratic Indiana state legislator has accused the 18-month-old son of a Republican lawmaker of being "scared of" her because of her skin color.

During a floor discussion on the state's newly-enacted Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Rep. Vanessa Summers recounted how a fellow legislator's toddler "looked at [her] like she was a monster and turned around and cried," the Indianapolis Star reported.

"I told [Rep.] Jud McMillin I love his son, but he's scared of me because of my color," Summers added.

"You need to introduce your child to some people that are dark-skinned so he will not be scared," Summers recalled telling McMillin.

"I can tell you that if he reacted the same way he reacts with anybody brand new, he buries his head in his dad's shoulder," McMillin said of his child.

Summers' comments were met with gasps from fellow lawmakers on the chamber floor Monday. 

Summers later defended her implication the toddler reacted based on her race: "I truly believe so," she said.

The measure being debated at the time of the incident is designed to legally protect religious freedoms according to its supporters. Its opponents, including Summers, attest it offers a legal means for discrimination.

Republican Gov. Mike Pence signed the bill into law Thursday.