You know how yesterday was a great day for the women of Kentucky in the General Assembly? Well, today is a very, very bad day for civil rights in Kentucky, as HB 279 — allowing anyone to ignore a law or statute if it violates their religion — passed the full state House by an overwhelming 82-7 vote.
So if you live in any of the cities in Kentucky with a LGBT fairness ordinance, HB 279 will now let you discriminate against a gay person if that is what you believe being a Christian requires you to do.
Amber Duke, communications director of the ACLU of Kentucky, concurs that this outcome would be quite possible if the Senate now passes the bill and sends it to Gov. Beshear for his signature. (Which will likely only be voted against by Lexington’s Sen. Kathy Stein)
“The way that it’s written — very broadly without any sort of exemption for established civil rights protections – it absolutely could be used to override all of the local statues in Louisville, Lexington, Covington and Vicco,” says Duke. “I think for a lot of folks, it’s like ‘Oh, religious freedom.’ And it’s really a misnomer.”
For those hoping that LGBT rights progress was on the rise in Kentucky following the wins in Vicco and Berea — and hopeful for movement on a statewide fairness ordinance in the near future — today is a truly horrible setback, for which both parties in Frankfort are to blame.
(Of the seven Democrats who voted against HB 279, we know they included Jim Wayne, Mary Lou Marzian, Joni Jenkins, Kelly Flood and Darryl Owens. We’ll update who the other two are (and thus who all of the Democrats who voted for it are) when we find out.)
***** UPDATE *****
The other two Democrats to vote against HB 279 were Reginald Meeks and Tom Burch of Louisville. That leaves three Lexington Democrats who didn’t vote against the bill: Jesse Crenshaw, Ruth Ann Palumbo and Susan Westrom. We hear that Westrom had to leave before the vote for a doctor’s appointment, but also that she was an early sponsor of the bill, which she later pulled. We’ll also guess that they might have some explaining to do to Democrats in their districts…