House Bill 279 Statement
BY: Jordan Palmer
Kentucky Equality Federation is extremely disappointed with House leadership for overriding House Bill 279, the “Forced Religion Imposition Act.” Allowing the House Democratic Caucus to vote ‘anonymously’ to decide to override the veto isn’t open government and it isn’t transparency, it is however cowardly.
People and organizations around the commonwealth from mayors to citizen activists organized to oppose this dreadful and hurtful legislation. Kentucky Equality Federation has pushed to have this bill vetoed before it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats, this is legislation we couldn’t kill with a simple telephone call or meeting.
House Bill 279 does nothing more than give people permission to discriminate based on their religious beliefs thereby taking it beyond ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘forced religion’ because they can impose their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so.
Kentucky lawmakers needed to define language in House Bill 279 before it became law such as what constitutes a ‘burden’ and what constitutes a ‘substantial’ burden to someone’s religious beliefs.
As noted by our Vice President of Legal, Jillian Hall, Esq., similar laws to this proposed bill have been passed in several other states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1997 (as applied to the states), though it remains federal law.
Until last night however, this law did not apply to the commonwealth of Kentucky.
As I have said before, the Kentucky Democratic Party is out of touch with the national Democratic Party. However, this was expected, given the continued loses Democrats have suffered since the 2010 election to Tea Party Republicans, Democrats cannot appear to be soft on Religion. Even with loses, this does not justify sacrificing your political beliefs.
Still, it remains to be seem if House Bill 279 can withstand a court challenge which our legal department is working on now.
In the future, because of threats related to House Bill 279, not only will our toll-free number override anonymous callers, but being calling the Office of Chairman of the Board (the Chair and Vice Chair) or members of the Office of the President (the President and all Vice Presidents) will be recorded. One lady also called to ask if it was legal to say LGBTI people are abominations at the rally the Family Foundation of Kentucky held on Tuesday.
House Bill 279 has the potential to harm local ordinances in place in Covington, Louisville, Lexington and Vicco. Kentucky Equality Federation’s legal department will sue the commonwealth of Kentucky with the first complaint we receive that House Bill 279 has been used to justify discrimination, termination, or school bullying regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.
People also made threats about the Red State Brief which Kentucky Equality Federation signed with 25 other statewide organizations with the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief contends that many local state laws are designed to routinely deny gay citizens basic civil rights, and many state codes are woven in a tangle that can only be unraveled by the courts.
Kentucky Equality Federation again thanks every person and every organization who made a stand with us on the right side of history.