Frankfort, Kentucky — The governor of Kentucky recently vetoed a bill that was designed to protect religious freedom in the Bluegrass State, remarking that it raised concerns over potential ramifications, such as public safety and homosexual rights violations.
Governor Steve Beshear, a Democrat, rejected The Religious Freedom Act on Friday, releasing a statement following his decision.
“I value and cherish our rights to religious freedom and I appreciate the good intentions of House Bill 279 and the members of the General Assembly who supported this bill to protect our constitutional rights to practice our religion,” he wrote. “However, I have significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and individuals’ civil rights.”
“As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation,” he continued. “I have heard from many organizations and government entities that share those same concerns. Therefore, after giving this measure thoughtful analysis and consideration, today I vetoed the bill.”
The legislation, HB279, created a provision for people of faith to be exempted from certain laws if they conflicted with their religious beliefs.
Beshear had reportedly been under significant pressure from homosexual groups, as well as other social justice organizations, to reject the legislation because it could undo the state’s anti-discrimination law as it relates to the treatment of minorities. They also contended that certain individuals could be denied contraceptives or other abortifacients due to the the religious convictions of business owners and/or their employees.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights was one of a number of outspoken opponents of the bill.
“[The] legislation could be used by an individual or entity under the guise of a ‘sincerely held religious belief’ to violate the constitutional and civil rights of other persons or organizations,” the Commission wrote in an official statement just days before the bill’s passage. “In other words, it could make discrimination legal if the discrimination perpetrated is claimed to be due to ‘a sincerely held religious belief.’”
The bill originated as a response to the abortion pill mandate in Obamacare, and served as a way to protect the right of conscience, but is believed to have developed into a much broader statement.
“If it does become law, Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Act could enable discrimination against more than just women seeking birth control,” explained writer Stephen C. Webster. “Civil rights advocates worry that landlords and employers could also use the law to justify discriminating against LGBT people and minorities as well, all in the name of ‘religious freedom.'”
Catholics for Fairness, the Kentucky Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, Lexington Fair Housing Council, Kentucky Feminists United and Louisville Atheists and Freethinkers were among the groups that had urged Beshear to veto the bill.
However, the legislation received tremendous support in both House and Senate, as the Democratic-controlled House voted 82-7 in favor of the bill. The state Assembly likewise overwhelmingly approved of the measure.
“We as Democrats in Kentucky have always stated that we are different than the national party. We believe in God. We believe in the Second Amendment. We believe in strong individual rights,” declared Democrat Representative Bob Damron, the sponsor of the bill. “There’s a strong case for us to back this bill.”
Following Friday’s decision, he vowed to override Beshear’s veto.
“The House will override the veto,” he advised radio station WFPL. “The only way they won’t is if we’re not given the opportunity to vote on Monday.”
Photo: Gage Skidmore