Even though only 4 cities in the state of Kentucky: Covington, Louisville, Lexington, and most recently the small town of, Vicco have anti-discrimination laws set in place to protect the LGBT community from discrimination the Kentucky House of Representatives by a wide margin, has approved a bill that could undermine these civil protections by granting free reign to religious organizations and individuals to discriminate as they see fit on “religious grounds”
House Bill 279, dubbed the Religious Freedom Bill, allows Kentuckians to ignore laws and statutes that they perceive as violations of their religious rights.
It reads, in part that it:
(HB 279) “Create(s) a new section of KRS Chapter 446 to specify that government shall not burden a person’s or religious organization’s freedom of religion; protect the right to act or refuse to act on religious grounds; specify that government shall prove by clear and convincing evidence prove a compelling governmental interest in establishing a burden on the freedom of religion; specify what constitutes a burden.”
Shockingly the bill passed the Democrat-controlled House, 82-7, with 11 members not voting. All four of the Democrats from the usually liberal Northern Kentucky Legislative Caucus voted to approve the bill.
Rep. Bob Damron, a Democrat and, the sponsor of HB 279, said the measure would further clarify religious freedoms in state law.. Damron added that the bill was needed because of recent state and U.S. Supreme Court cases that have changed the way religious freedom is interpreted.
But several Democratic House members did passionately stand up and speak out on Friday in opposition to the measure during debate on the House floor, saying it was being pushed by the Catholic Church so it would not have to comply with any state or federal laws that direct health plans to provide birth control or other contraceptives to women and the ever evolving issue of gay adoption.
“Religious freedom sounds so Mom and apple pie,” said Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville, but this bill will have unintended consequences.”
Rep. Kelly Flood, D-Lexington, and other House members said they were also concerned that the bill would also allow the Catholic Church to further cover up crimes involving priests by citing religious reasons for not complying with court orders to turn over documents.
If the Senate chooses to keep the bill’s current language, and not amend it to include specific protections for civil rights laws, a religious individual could claim an exemption from any law or policy that prohibits discrimination, leaving the LGBT community and even racial minorities, and women, without any protections.