A Kentucky bill allowing residents to ignore anti-discrimination laws if their bigotry was based on their religious beliefs is heading to a committee in the state senate today.
Sponsored by Rep. Bob Damron (D-Nicholasville), H.B. 279 already passed the Kentucky House. If it becomes law, it would have a profound effect on the rights of LGBT Kentuckians, not to mention single parents, divorced people and even religious minorities.
“House Bill 279 represents a clear and present danger to the gay and lesbian community and other minority groups around the commonwealth,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer. “Both the Kentucky and U.S. constitutions provide for freedom of religion and Kentucky Equality Federation supports freedom of religion. However, what we need is freedom from religion; lawmakers use religion as a means to deny someone a fundamental civil right.” Palmer says the bill’s backers have turned freedom of religion on its head—”they [will] have imposed their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so.”
It’s truly a shame that bigots are attempting to circumvent equality in the state that, nearly 50 years ago, enacted what Dr. Martin Luther King called “the strongest and most comprehensive civil rights bill passed by a Southern state.”
What’s worse is there that there currently is no statewide law protecting gays and lesbians, so you can already discriminate to your hearts content. H.B. 279 would just threaten local anti-discrimination ordinances in place in Louisville, Lexington and Vicco. (Reproductive-rights advocates also claim it would allow the Catholic Church to ignore any laws mandating healthcare plans provide birth control to women.)
“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 LGBTI community,” said Kentucky Equality Federation legal expert Jillian Hall.