Last Friday, Governor Steve Beshear created a stir when he vetoed HB 279, the Religious Freedom Act. It passed both Houses by wide margins and was intended to put a greater burden on the state before it could infringe on somebody’s religious liberty. Interestingly, it was gay political organizations that objected the loudest. The ACLU and the Kentucky Equality Federation said it could jeopardize local ordinances that prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing, employment or public accommodations. In other words, they believe that a local ordinance that elevates homosexual behavior to a civil right is superior to the religious conviction of one who believes that homosexuality is a sin.
Since the ACLU makes this point then perhaps the bill is needed all the more. As it is, a landlord who believes that it is wrong to rent to a homosexual couple could be forced to do so if they lived in Lexington, Louisville, Covington or Vicco. A Christian business owner in those same cities could be penalized for declining to hire a cross-dresser. If it sounds absurd, it is. Sadly, sexual identity as a civil right trumps conscience and religious conviction not just in theory but in practice. Last year, a Christian owned T-shirt company called Hands on Originals declined to fill an order for a gay pride event and was hauled before the Lexington Human Rights Commission. They were found in violation of the local ordinance last November.
Religious freedom is a fundamental right guaranteed by the Kentucky Constitution. Section V says “No human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.” Religion and conscience are clearly protected. Certain sexual behaviors are not. Seems pretty clear. The legislature has the votes to override the veto but the question is whether the House has the willpower to do so.
Note: This was a letter to the editor sent to newspapers across Kentucky.