Human rights groups in Kentucky are fighting a proposed bill that would allow people to sidestep anti-discrimination laws if they could justify their actions with “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
House Bill 279, sponsored by conservative Democrat Rep. Bob Damron and recently passed in the State Senate, would strengthen a person’s ability to “ignore state regulations or laws that contradict his or her ‘sincerely held’ religious beliefs.” Gay rights groups say this could legalize discrimination against LGBT people on the basis of certain religious beliefs that maintain homosexuality is wrong:
The Kentucky Equality Federation sent a letter to Beshear before the Senate vote, urging the two-term Democratic governor to veto the measure.
“House Bill 279 represents a clear and present danger to the gay and lesbian community and other minority groups around the commonwealth,” the letter said. “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.”
Only four Kentucky cities have enacted ordinances that protect LGBT people from discrimination; no such protections are in place at the statewide or nationwide level. This would make it even easier for conservative Christians to completely ignore what little protections do prevent LGBT people from discrimination.
Carolyn Miller-Cooper, executive director of the Louisville Metro Human Relations Commission, said her agency “supports religious freedom but is concerned about the overly broad language of HB 279.”
The bill, she said, could allow someone to deny certain types of people access to public facilities, employment opportunities or housing if that denial is “based upon a sincerely held religious belief.”
What Gov. Steve Beshear will do with the bill (sign it, veto it, or ignore it) is still unknown. As of Friday, he had not yet made a decision. Apparently, 12 states have approved similar laws — in other words, there are 12 states I will try never to visit in my lifetime. Religious freedom will never justify taking away civil rights, and it’s abhorrent that elected officials don’t realize it.