Veto decision looming for religious freedom bill

By Roger Alford/Associated Press, Published:

(AP) — Gov. Steve Beshear will have to decide Friday whether to veto a bill that supporters say would give stronger legal standing in Kentucky to people who claim their religious rights are being violated.

The second-term Democrat is being pressured by the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky and other groups to veto the measure that they contend could allow people to discriminate against gays, lesbians and others in the name of religion.

Meanwhile, church groups have been urging Beshear to sign the bill. If Beshear doesn't veto the measure, Kentucky would join 16 other states that provide similar protections for people of faith, though legal experts say similar laws have been largely ineffective elsewhere.

State Rep. Bob Damon, D-Nicholasville, warned Friday that he would push for a legislative override if Beshear vetoes the legislation, which easily passed both the House and the Senate.

"That's not something I want to do," Damon said Friday. "But, on the other hand, this is a very important issue."

Damron sponsored the bill after the Kentucky Supreme Court issued a ruling last year upholding a state law requiring the Amish to display bright orange safety triangles on their drab buggies so motorists could better see them. Several Amish men in rural western Kentucky felt so strongly that displaying the triangles violated their religious belief against calling attention to themselves that they went to jail rather than comply with the law.

The legislation protects "sincerely held religious beliefs" from infringement unless there is "a compelling governmental interest."

The Fairness Coalition, a gay rights group, said the bill "could make discrimination legal" in Kentucky.

Wayne State University law professor Christopher Lund reviewed the effects of religious freedom laws, finding they've largely been unused and that people who did claim religious infringement in those states lost more often than they won.

In New Mexico, one of the states with a religious freedom law, a Christian wedding photographer lost two court rulings after she refused to take pictures of the commitment ceremony of a lesbian couple.

Damron acknowledged that passing the bill isn't likely to bring landmark change in Kentucky.

"But it does reinforce that somebody's basic right of religious expression is paramount and the government has to have a comopelling interest to override that," he said.

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  • So, while the economy and job growth of our state staggers around like a drunken sailor, our legislatures in their infinite wisdom, are preoccupied with a bill that does nothing more than give people permission to discriminate based on their religious beliefs thereby taking it beyond ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘forced religion’ because they have imposed their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so. Passing this Republican introduced bill (although it was supported by some Democrats, but not the Governor), took a lot of valuable time during the session, which should have been spent solving our many problems. The people did not elect these legislators to go to Frankfort and waste time on trash like this. The legislators did not run their campaigns on promises to pass trash like this, they said that they were going to work on the states many economic woes! Where are the jobs, legislators, where ARE the J-O-B-S?

  • "We will never have true civilization until we have learned to recognize the rights of others." -Will Rogers

  • This is being sold by some of our local churches as the Governor's Bill that allows gambling! They are being told to call the Legislative Message Line and leave this message to override the Governor's Veto and they have no idea what HB279 even means to them! Call your legislator at 800-372-7181 and tell them to leave a message for them and leadership of both chambers NOT to override this VETO...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... House Bill 279 does nothing more than give people permission to discriminate based on their religious beliefs thereby taking it beyond ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘forced religion’ because they have imposed their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so. ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... House Bill 279 has the potential to harm local ordinances in place in Covington, Louisville, Lexington and Vicco. ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Essentially, an individual can continue to discriminate against a gay individual in violation of the ordinance and be protected under this new law by showing that it is in conflict with their closely held religious beliefs. While the language adding “substantial” to the burden (via an amendment to the bill) does add some protections, the law still is a major step backward for the equality movement. Right now, people discriminate freely and openly against the gay community without recourse due to the lack of a Kentucky statewide equality law. Similar laws to this proposed bill have been passed in several other states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1997 (as applied to the states). ......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... This law is nothing more than a poor recitation of the First Amendment, and is a thinly veiled move by the legislature showing their lack of respect or tolerance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex community (LGBTI). This law, along with the Manhattan Declaration of 2010 acts to block forward progress and is a continued embarrassment for the Commonwealth. ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Meanwhile, LMHRC Executive Director Carolyn Miller-Cooper stated that “The HRC supports religious freedom but is concerned about the overly broad language of HB 279. We urge the General Assembly not to open the door for discrimination by stopping HB 279 or amending it to include civil rights protections.” They noted that HB 279 could allow for an individual to deny certain people access to public facilities, employment opportunities or housing so long as they base the denial on “a sincerely held religious belief.” ...................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... They noted that: .......................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... An individual was denied a public accommodation because of his sexual orientation and the Human Rights Commission issued a finding of Probable Cause in this case. Enforcement led to a default judgment against the business owner. Another individual was denied equal employment treatment when he was passed over for a promotion due to his sexual orientation. The HRC issued a finding of Probable Cause and this case was finally settled for $11,000 plus. ....................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... Unfortunately, there are many historical examples of “sincerely held religious beliefs” used to discriminate against groups of people: ........................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ Against African-Americans: In 1966, three African-American customers brought a suit against Piggie Park restaurants, and their owner, Maurice Bessinger, for refusal to serve them. Bessinger argued that enforcement of the Civil Rights Act, which prohibits that type of discrimination, violated his religious freedom “since his religious beliefs compel[ed] him to oppose any integration of the races whatever.” ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. Against women: In 1976, Roanoke Valley Christian Schools added a “head of household” supplement to their teachers’ salaries – which according to their beliefs meant married men, and not women. When sued under the Equal Pay Act, Roanoke Valley claimed a right to an exemption. According to the church pastor affiliated with the school, “[w]hen we turned to the Scriptures to determine head of household, by scriptural basis, we found that the Bible clearly teaches that the husband is the head of the house, head of the wife, head of the family.”

  • Rep. Damron and those other reps who voted for and promise to override any veto a product of the old adage Canada got the French, Australia got the convicts and WE got the PURITANS! And we still have the Puritans with us today...they are a relative minority in this country that we call religious conservatives. Because their right wing agenda is predicated upon their deep seeded obsession with controlling casual sex (i.e. sex for fun not procreation) they ardently push for anti-abortion, anti-contraceptives, anti-women's rights, anti-gay rights, etc. Their base is well funded, organized and committed to making America a theocracy. The founding fathers did every thing in their power to assure that America would not become another theocracy...and we must fight to assure that their efforts were not in vain.

  • No that is not right, bodeen, you got it bassackwards! The people who are being discriminated against are the gay and lesbian citizens, not the darned religious zealots who are trying to codify their religious doctrine and beliefs into law so that everybody will have to follow them under the penalty of law. Forcing others to abide by your religious beliefs is the stuff of the Taliban. The religious right is not being infringed upon here, as nobody is trying to make them turn gay, marry someone who is their own sex, associate with gays socially, abandon their own religious beliefs. It is apparent that these religious zealots are on very shaky ground here as in their own Bible, Jesus does not even mention homosexuality even once. He talks a lot about helping the poor, a doctrine that most conservatives find obnoxious, which is why they vote Republican. The fact is that you are on the wrong side of this issue on at least two fronts, in that the majority of Americans agree that gays should not be discriminated against and the moral and ethical considerations. The vary same arguments were made by those who supported slavery, Jim Crow laws, laws preventing races from marrying, women's rights (voting, property ownership, driving, etc.), and they were all proven to be wrong and overturned. So too, they will in this issue...you might as well get used to it.

  • Not acting allows people like 1713 to trample all over other peoples religious beliefs. This has so nothing to to with homosexuality but all to do with people like 1713 fearing that their efforts to abolish religious beliefs would take a hard hit.

  • ER ah, bodeen, it seems that you are confused here, as the only people's rights that are being "trampled on" are the gay and lesbians, who have been relegated to second class citizenship only because of their naturally occurring sexual orientation. Do you actually know someone who is gay, bodeen. I don't mean know OF them, but to know and love them! Well, neither had Rob Portman or Dick Cheney until they realized that their children were gay, and it sure turned their heads around. ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................ The gay liberation movement has succeeded in bringing homosexuality out of the closet and into the political, economic, and cultural mainstream. It is being led by the under 35 youth and it will not be denied. For many years, the Fright Wing has used stereotyping and scapegoating to attack gay and lesbian people, portraying them as one of the major causes of the decline of "family values" and "morality" in the US. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is fair to say that the Christian Right now has a stranglehold on the GOP, and they still have the right to denounce gay rights and not to be gay themselves. Nothing has really been lost there and certainly, gays are no threat to religious zealots. If you don't like gays and lesbians, don't be one or associate with them...nobody is trying to change YOUR sexual orientation of values, so stop trying to change theirs. .................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... It is so presumptuous for Christians to assume that ONLY they know what God wants when they say that homosexuality is wrong and that the persecution of these folks should continue. They point to some obscure passages in the King James version of the Old Testament, but ignore that Jesus never uttered a single word about gays in the entire new testament. Not one. The Christians are on very shaky ground here according to their own Bible. The Old Testament says all kinds of crazy crap, like when you can sell your daughters into slavery, or that it is OK to offer their sexual favors to your male friends. You can't cherry pick verses out of the Bible to suit your own agnedas, it is an all or nothing thing. ............................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................. The very same arguments that you guys are making against gays and lesbians having the same rights as everybody else, were used against letting black people, women, the Irish, the American Indians, the Jews, and on and on, have their's. In every instance, truth, justice and the American way prevailed over ignorance and intolerance. You are on the wrong side of not only what is right here, but history.

  • Well, He vetoed it! The ACLU wants to call all the shots & take away the peoples rights to please a smaller select group. Time to get the overide in action. Ain't that right 1713 .... :-)

  • Agree. This passed both houses easily. So what if certain people doesn't want to be forced to go against their religion, it is their right & always has been their right way before this so called American Civil Liberties Union came along and slowly has taken away the rights of people. 1713, you want people to have the right to smoke dope without others interfering but you more than glad to have peoples rights to religion tramped on. I thought that you always preached about having a GOD GIVING RIGHT! How ironic.

  • He better not veto this!!!

  • This decision should be an automatic veto for the good governor...a slam dunk.