Kentucky Governor Vetoes Bill That Would Have Protected Right to Discriminate Against Gays Based on Religious Beliefs

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear has vetoed House Bill 279 , by which a "religious individual could claim an exemption from any law or policy that prohibits discrimination" according to the ACLU, "leaving racial minorities, women, LGBT people and others without adequate protections."

BeshearFrom the Governor's website:

“Religious freedom is a cornerstone of this great nation, and a right enshrined in both the United States Constitution and the Kentucky Constitution,” said Gov. Beshear.  “I value and cherish our rights to religious freedom and I appreciate the good intentions of House Bill 279 and the members of the General Assembly who supported this bill to protect our constitutional rights to practice our religion.  However, I have significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and individuals’ civil rights. As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation.  I have heard from many organizations and government entities that share those same concerns. Therefore, after giving this measure thoughtful analysis and consideration, today I vetoed the bill.”

HB279, sent to the Governor on March 11, would allow an individual to disregard any state or local law that places a substantial burden on his or her sincerely held religious belief.  As written, the government would have to show by “clear and convincing evidence” that the state has a compelling interest in requiring the person to follow the established law, and that there is no less restrictive means to accomplish the government’s objective.

The ACLU earlier this month had expressed concern that the bill might be used to undermine existing LGBT Fairness protections for individuals covered by local statutes in Louisville, Lexington, Covington and Vicco, Kentucky.


  1. Francis says

    Glad a Democrat is Governor of Kentucky.

    Thank you, Gov. Steve Beshear. This bill would have had so many horrible consequences (and Kentucky already doesn’t protect sexual orientation within it’s state constitution) if passed so luckily Gov. Beshear vetoed it.

  2. JJ says

    It needs pointing out that “sincerely held” is the weakest possible form of belief. If a belief is less than sincerely held we don’t even call it a belief anymore. At that point it’s just an inkling or a suspicion or a hope. Just because someone believes something “sincerely” should not obligate the state to protect that belief or defer to it. If any belief should be entitled to state deference, it shoud at a minimum be
    – backed by evidence that is publicly available,
    – independently verified, and
    – subject to public scrutiny. Sincerely held just isn’t good enough.

    A perfect example would be the medical establishment’s scientific consensus that marijuana is a good treatment option for certain conditions. Even though marijuana is generally illegal, the state should defer to medical science because it has the superior facts and expertise to decide the best policy.

  3. Jones says

    Religion is dangerous. Religion is the new decoy word for hate and discrimination. Old Nazis started out the same way the Family Research and NOM did. Put a mark against a demographic, make people scared of said demographic, then put it to legislation. Our enemies would be amusing if only they weren’t so dangerous.

  4. robert says

    Red- yeah, but he’s a Dem governor of a very very very conservative red state. At this point, we should just be glad he vetoed it. I don’t blame him for being tepid in the written statement. He’s walking a fine line. God help him when the next election rolls around, they are gonna throw this one in his face, sadly.

    The real worrisome aspect of this is, most news reports are saying the Legislature has the votes to over-ride his veto. So, LGBT Kentuckians have a big fight ahead, still!!

  5. jamal49 says

    Another reason why I vote Democrat. If that governor had been a Republican, that onerous bill would now be law.

    So, LogCabinettes and GoProudGirls, what’s your take on this latest Republican outrage in Kentucky? C’mon, let’s hear your rationale this time.

  6. andrew says

    Kentucky, why couldn’t you send a thoughtful and reasonable man like Steve Beshear to the U.S. Senate instead of sticking us with Sen Mitch McConnell who is neither thoughtful nor reasonable.

  7. mmike1969 says

    I am going to start a NEW Religion! The basis is that those who are republicans or t-baggers, they get slapped in the face with a baseball bat.

    Anyone else wants in my religion?

  8. Oz in OK says

    “The ACLU earlier this month had expressed concern that the bill might be used to undermine existing LGBT Fairness protections for individuals covered by local statutes in Louisville, Lexington, Covington and Vicco, Kentucky.”

    You can bet that this was one of the big reasons the bill was pushed in the first place.

  9. John says

    So a gay couple could marry on the basis that it is a part of their religiously held beliefs. However, the county clerk could reject the application based on his/her beliefs. Whoever voted for this should be sent packing. The Governor was right and his veto was sound.

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