The Kentucky House and Senate voted by overwhelming margins Tuesday night to override Gov. Steve Beshear’s veto of the controversial “religious freedom” bill that would not only give religious organizations but also individuals the right to ignore any state or city anti-discrimination laws on the basis of “religious freedom”
The House’s 79-15 vote sent House Bill 279 to the Senate, which voted 32-6 to override the Governors VETO.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear released a statement saying he was disappointed with the override of the only bill he vetoed in the 2013 legislative session. “As I explained in my veto message, I have significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and individuals’ civil rights.”
HB 279 says that government shall not infringe on any person’s sincerely held religious beliefs unless it can show with “clear and convincing evidence” some compelling governmental interest for doing so.
Gay-rights and human-rights groups led the opposition to the bill, warned that it could be used to challenge local laws in Louisville, Lexington, Covington and Vicco designed to protect not only gays and lesbians from discrimination but could also be used to override racial and anti-discrimination laws geared to protect women. And possibly result in the withholding of needed medical care or te withholding of abortions using religious beliefs as a justification for abuse.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, noted that the bill passed as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments on same-sex marriage. “Today the commonwealth took a step backwards in protecting its residents at the same time the United States Supreme Court was hearing arguments that will advance the rights of Americans. It’s sad and it’s disheartening,” he said.
While the Kentucky Senate is Republican controlled, Kentucky’s House is overwhelming Democratic. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, cowardly declined to give a final tally for the vote to override Gov. Steve Beshear’s veto of House Bill 279