Bill Would Create Special Protections for People of Faith
Despite calls against "legislating morality," Kentucky GOP State Senator Albert Robinson (photo, top) saw his bill creating special rights for people who have a religious objection to same-sex marriage and LGBT people pass the Senate Tuesday afternoon. The vote was 22-16.
The bill, should it become law, also effectively nullifies LGBT nondiscrimination ordinances in several Kentucky towns and cities.
Some senators warned they are unsure just how far the bill could extend.
Gay people "are trying to force their beliefs down the throats" of those who oppose same-sex marriage, Sen. Robinson claimed, saying LGBT people have been "trolling" businesses trying to find ones that refuse service to same-sex couples.
Kentucky Senator claims "license to discriminate" is necessary to protect Jewish baker from making a Nazi cake. #sb180— Zack Ford (@ZackFord) March 15, 2016
The bill, one of many "religious freedom" bills conservatives have been pushing in the wake of the legalization of same-sex marriage.
Calling it a "live and let live bill," Sen. Robinson also claimed the Supreme Court's Obergefell decision does not give "the homosexual community...the liberty to push" same-sex marriage down the "throats" of Kentucky's citizens. He added that not all but some members of "the homosexual community make it an issue."
Not all spoke in favor of the Robinson's legislation.
"This bill would return Kentucky to the dark days of the past. I would hope the Kentucky Senate would not support a bill that promotes bigotry," Senator Reggie Thomas (photo) told his colleagues, voting against the bill. "I do not want to be a part of that."
Later, Sen. Thomas talked about the history of the 20th century, filled with anti-Semitism and denial of rights for African Americans. And now, he said, "gays are just demanding their rightful place in society."
The original language of the bill, not including the amendment added today, reads that it specifically protects those who "provide customized, artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial, or spiritual goods or services, or judgments, attestations, or other commissions that involve protected rights." In other words, florists, bakers, and photographers, as well as pastors, preachers, and other faith leaders who might be asked to perform a service or sell a product to a same-sex couple.
Today's amendment allegedly narrows the scope of protected businesses but to what degree is unclear.
Calling it "dangerous overreach," and "an incredibly broad statute," one senator said SB 180 was drafted in response to a case currently in the court system, Hands On Originals v. Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission. He opposed the bill because he believes current Kentucky law already provides sufficient protections for people of faith. And he noted Missouri tried to pass a similar bill and has received a great deal of negative attention.
Other lawmakers said the bill would "invite problems."
The bill now heads to the Kentucky House.
UPDATE I: 4:31 PM EST –
From the original text of the bill, not including today's as yet unpublished amendment:
"Notwithstanding any law to the contrary, no statute, regulation, ordinance, order, judgment, or other law or action by any court, commission, or other public agency shall impair, impede, infringe upon, or otherwise restrict the exercise of protected rights by any protected activity provider." In other words, this nullifies local LGBT protection and nondiscrimination ordinances.
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