In Kentucky, gays could be refused business over faith if bill passes

Mar 1, 2016

Photo credit: John Cheves

By John Cheves

A Senate committee approved two “religious liberty” bills Thursday, one to legally protect businesses that don’t want to serve gay, lesbian or transgender customers because of the owners’ religious objections, and the other to protect religious expression in public schools.

The first measure, Senate Bill 180, would prohibit the government from compelling services or actions from anyone if doing so conflicts with their sincerely held religious beliefs. The bill expands the state’s 2013 Religious Freedom Restoration Act to clarify that businesses could not be punished in such cases for violating local ordinances that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, the bill’s sponsor, said there are Christian-owned bakeries, florists and photographers in Kentucky that don’t want to assist with same-sex weddings. However, they also don’t want to face civil-rights lawsuits by spurned customers and punitive fines by local civil-rights agencies, Robinson said.

“All of these business owners want to treat everyone with full human dignity and respect,” Robinson, R-London, told the Senate Committee on Veterans, Military Affairs and Public Protection. “But their consciences and religious beliefs prevent them from using their skills to promote a celebration that runs counter to what the Bible teaches about marriage. Shouldn’t their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion be respected?”

Robinson said he’s also responding to the case of Hands On Originals, a Lexington business that refused to print T-shirts in 2012 for the Lexington Pride Festival, citing the owner’s religious objections.

The Lexington Human Rights Commission found that Hands On Originals violated the city’s Fairness Ordinance requiring service to gays and lesbians. But Fayette Circuit Judge James Ishmael overturned that decision, ruling that there was no evidence the business refused the T-shirt order because of the sexuality of the would-be customers. Rather, the business objected to the shirt’s message “advocating sexual activity outside of a marriage between one man and one woman,” he wrote. The case is now on appeal.

“There is an agenda at work here that seeks to force people with sincerely held religious convictions to either abandon these beliefs or violate them or face state action that could close their businesses and destroy them financially,” Robinson told his colleagues Thursday.

As written, the bill would cover governments as well as businesses, limiting the power of public agencies to infringe on the “right of conscience” or “freedom of religion” of people who work for them.


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7 comments on “In Kentucky, gays could be refused business over faith if bill passes

  • 1
    NearlyNakedApe says:

    Apparently in Kentucky, religious liberty means the right to claim your bigoted, judgmental views as a legitimate excuse to discriminate against people you don’t like. Not hard to see why no impeachment process was ever initiated against Kim Davis. The State legislature is most likely behind her 100% even though what she did (and is still doing) is certainly grounds for impeachment.



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  • @OP – As written, the bill would cover governments as well as businesses, limiting the power of public agencies to infringe on the “right of conscience” or “freedom of religion” of people who work for them.

    Basically this is saying that the religious who pick and chose their “morality” from holy books according to their personal biases, should also be entitled to pick which civil laws and terms of employment, they choose to obey!

    Only large numbers of the deeply deluded in backward states, would elect muppets like these to positions in the legislature!



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  • Believers are not being asked to abandon their faith. They are being asked to provide their commercial service to all customers who make a legal request for that service without discrimination against the customer or the nature of their request. If they don’t like it they can leave that commercial position.



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  • So if I move to Kentucky I could refuse to pay any state income taxes because of my “religious” beliefs as an atheist? Let’s flood the state with atheists and bankrupt them! 🙂



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  • They’re taking the wrong tack here. What these businesses ought to do is form a club or society dedicated to being assholes err dedicated to discussion, study, and practice of traditional marriage. Then provide services (wedding cakes, etc) for members of the club. So long as the members of the club only provide services for other members of the club this would then fall under freedom of association rather than anti discrimination laws. Or least that’s my understanding of the law here.

    To be honest I’m split between wanting to start such a club to bleed these jackasses of their wealth and keeping my mouth shut so they’ll be forced to provide services for “abominations.”



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  • @Narcissistic_Martyr (#6)
    As you say, if a business repositioned itself as a private club it could probably dodge round the law anyway (Dallas Buyers Club springs to mind).

    But
    “As written, the bill would cover governments as well as businesses, limiting the power of public agencies to infringe on the “right of conscience” or “freedom of religion” of people who work for them.”

    This is the most pernicious aspect of the bill, and is truly beyond the pale.

    And anyway, where exactly does “right of conscience” stop, in refusing service to someone? Their sexuality, their politics, their race? Or because they cut you off on the highway once, or you’re in a dispute with them over the fence that borders your property, or simply because you simply don’t like the cut of their jib?



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