Kentucky gov. vetoes bill that would have allowed anti-gay religious discrimination


Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed a bill yesterday that LGBT civil rights supporters said would allow homophobes to openly discriminate against gays.

The Associated Press reported that the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Bob Damron, D- Nicholasville, would push for a legislative override before the Legislature adjourns on Tuesday. The bill, which protects “sincerely held religious beliefs” from infringement unless there is “a compelling governmental interest,” passed on overwhelming bipartisan support.

Damron said he sponsored the bill in reaction to a Kentucky Supreme Court ruling last year upholding a state law requiring Amish citizens to display bright orange safety triangles on their buggies to make them more visible to drivers. Several Amish men chose jail over compliance with the law, saying that their religious beliefs prohibited them from calling attention to themselves.

But The Fairness Coalition, a gay rights group, and the ACLU argued that the bill “could make discrimination legal” in Kentucky.

“I have significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and individuals’ civil rights,” Beshear said in vetoing the legislation. “As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation.”

Right-wing religious groups had pressured Beshear to sign the bill, saying Kentucky should be allowed to join 16 other states that provide similar protections for people of faith.

But Wayne State University law professor Christopher Lund reviewed the effects of religious freedom laws in other Bible Belt states and found they’ve largely been unused. People who did claim religious infringement in those states lost their cases more often than they won, Lund added.