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Kentucky House Waters Down Religious Liberty/Freedom To Discriminate Bill Over Fear of Backlash

Kentucky lawmakers rewrote a bill Wednesday that scaled-back an egregious  “Religious Liberty” and “Freedom to Discriminate” law with a substitute wording that simply clarifies that only churches and ministers do not have to provide wedding services for same-sex couples if they have religious objections.

State Rep. Jason Nemes, who offered the substitute, said he didn’t want the legislation to go too far. Other states, including North Carolina, have suffered economic boycotts by wading into controversial battles over sexual orientation and civil-rights protection in the three years since the Supreme Court’s marriage same-sex marriage decision in 2015 which already established that clergy have a First Amendment right to not participate in same-sex weddings if they object.

“I wanted to make sure that the (legislation) that passed out of the House of Representatives protected churches and ministers and didn’t go further than that,” said Nemes,

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. also stood against the original version of the bill that would have allowed churches and religious organizations the right to ignore civil-rights protections offered by Lexington, Covington, and several other Kentucky cities to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

“We do business in a number of other states, and had concerns, frankly, about how it would appear to those outside Kentucky if we seemed to be discriminating against any one particular group,” said Dave Adkisson, the chamber’s president.

Several Republicans on the committee said they were disappointed because they supported the bill as originally written, but they preferred getting something to nothing.

“The religious liberty and religious freedom of our country are under constant attack,” state Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, told the committee as he testified for the bill.

Democrats said the original bill promoted intolerance added that they had no problem with Nemes’ version, because clergy already are not required to marry anyone under the law.

“Honestly, I haven’t heard any outrage from any of the churches in my district about having to participate in anyone’s weddings, so I don’t know what problem this is supposed to be solving,” State Rep. Joni Jenkins, D-Louisville, said adding that she thinks this might just be an easy pass for the Republican controlled state that so far has nothing to show for getting anything done. “Pension reform isn’t happening. They’re struggling to get any kind of a budget passed. So now it’s ‘Hey, let’s do another religious liberty bill.’”

The new re-written watered down bill will  proceed to the full House for a vote

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Will Kohler

Will Kohler is a noted LGBT historian, journalist and owner of Back2Stonewall.com. A longtime gay activist, Will fought on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic with ACT-UP and continues fighting today for LGBT acceptance and full equality. Will’s work has been referenced in notable media venues as MSNBC and BBC News, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Hollywood Reporter, and Raw Story,

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