Senate's Failure to
include civil rights amendment leaves Many Vulnerable
The Senate passed
House Bill 279, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, without an amendment for civil rights protections, despite warnings of the potential consequences.
The measure passed late March 7th 29-6. Dissenting votes came from Democratic Senators Clark, Harper Angel, McGarvey, Neal, Rhoads and Stein.
American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky staff attorney William
Sharp testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee earlier in the week. “HB 279,
as drafted, creates an impermissible risk that existing civil rights
protections would be subject to a patchwork of exemptions in a wide array of
housing and public accommodation contexts that would, in effect, undermine
those protections if not render them practically unenforceable,” shared
The ACLU of Kentucky was seeking a
modest amendment to ensure the bill struck the proper balance between
individuals’ religious freedom and others’ civil rights protections. With the bill's passage, we now seek a gubernatorial veto to prevent
religion from being used to defy any
anti-discrimination laws-federal, state or local.
of this legislation is an affront to those who have fought for decades to
insure that every Kentuckian is treated with dignity and respect,” said ACLU of
Kentucky executive director Michael Aldridge.
“Senate Minority Whip Jerry Rhoads was correct when he said the
legislature was ‘opening up Pandora’s Box’ during the Judiciary committee vote. The unintended consequences of this broad
legislation are numerous and we hope that a thorough review by the Governor
will reveal the flaws in the bill as drafted," added Aldridge.
By choosing not to amend the bill to include specific protections for civil rights laws, a religious individual
could claim an exemption from any law or policy that prohibits
discrimination-leaving racial minorities, women, LGBT people and others without
adequate protections. This is a view
shared publicly by a number of organizations and agencies including the
commonwealth’s own Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, Louisville Metro Human
Relations Commission, Fairness Campaign, Kentucky Fairness Alliance, Lexington
Fairness and the National Association of Social Workers-Kentucky Chapter.