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LGBTQ advocates concerned about religious liberty bill

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FRANKFORT, Ky. — A bill allowing Kentuckians to take civil action if they believe the government has infringed on their religious freedom is moving forward after passing through committee.

What You Need To Know

 House Bill 47 passed through committee Wednesday
 It would allow people to sue if they feel their religious freedoms have been violated
 It woud cover state laws and local ordinances
Opponets believe it could target Fairness Ordinances, which bar descrimination against LGBTQ people

House Bill 47 aims to expand Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which became law 2013. This bill expands that section of the law, and would ultimately have a judge rule on these actions. It would cover not only state law, but local ordinances as well.  

“HB 47 ensures that Kentucky courts will use the most accommodating language to ensure that religious Kentuckians a fair day in court,” bill sponsor State Rep. Steve Rawlings, R-Burlington, said.

The Fairness Campaign, a group advocating for LGBTQ rights in Kentucky, opposed this bill. Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, believes it could target Fairness Ordnances by those who don’t support them. 

24 communities in Kentucky have enacted such ordinances since 1999, which bans discrimination against LGBTQ people.

“We shouldn’t create sweeping religious exemptions that encourage people to pick and choose which laws they’re going to follow or to file lawsuits over anything that they don’t agree with at taxpayer’s expense,” Hartman said.

Rawlings does not believe his bill targets those ordinances, and pushed back at the notion this bill would open up the door for frivolous lawsuits.

“(Religious Freedom Restoration Acts are) in 25 states. Many of the states have been under the law for 10 or 12 years, and you don’t have those, the theoreticals that we’ve been hearing. That the possibilities, the types of claims have been brought up. That’s not happened,” Rawlings said.

Speaking to support the bill was the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian religious liberty advocacy organization. The left-leaning Southern Poverty Law Center has designated it as a hate group for its anti-LGBTQ stances. 

“So it’s not going to decide any particular outcome. Every case is very fact specific. It just gives people a fair day to bring their case to a court, for the courts to assess the facts in each situation to balance those two interests,” Greg Chafuen, policy director for Alliance Defending Freedom said.

Hartman believes the Alliance would benefit from this bill’s passage, at the expense of Kentuckians.  

“The Alliance Defending Freedom is a national interest group that seeks to fleece Kentucky out of millions of tax dollars while weakening civil rights laws by traipsing about our state to sue every city and county that has a fairness ordinance,” Hartman said.

Support for this bill was split primary along party lines, however, three Republicans sided with Democrats in voting against the bill.

“I do think that we have to be very careful when we say that based on your religious belief that you’re allowed to discriminate against people. That is not what we need to be doing here in this commonwealth,” State Rep. Keturah Herron, D-Louisville, said.

Some Republicans who voted yes in committee said while they had some concerns, they were hopeful work could be done to narrow the bill language, to prevent some lawsuits.


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