After pressure from local gay rights and city lawmakers, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is asking Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to veto the so-called religious freedom bill.
The bill would allow residents to ignore any laws or regulations that violate tenets of their faith.
Last week, the mayor and city commissioners of Covington joined the chorus of those against the legislation.
In a letter sent to the governor to Tuesday, Fischer says the measure is “well-intentioned” but raises too many legal questions and isn’t needed.
“We are a compassionate city. We don’t need this proposed law, full of ambiguity and question, to prove our religious freedom and protect our citizens from some perceived threat,” says Fischer. “We have plenty of laws and a Constitution adopted by our citizens that provide us ample protections—no matter our faith, our profession, or our other rights and traits as human beings.”
Both chambers of the General Assembly passed the bill overwhelmingly, and state lawmakers behind the proposal argue there is enough support to override a gubernatorial veto.
Under state law, a governor may sign a bill, veto it or permit it to become law without a signature.
“Whether he signs it or not—as long as he doesn’t veto it, it becomes law. The only difference is going to be that you will have had a Democratic governor refusing to sign a bill that promotes religious freedom. And I think that would probably hurt the governor to do that. Certainly if he has future political aspirations, and I think it could hurt the Democratic Party in the state as well,” says Family Foundation senior analyst Martin Cothran.
Asked if any city mayors or county judge executives were asked to support Beshear signing the legislation, Cothran told WFPL no local officials had been approached, adding area churches were enough.
In the letter to the governor, Fischer’s chief points are that House Bill 279 would hurt local business prospects and raise too many legal questions.
“l believe it will take us backwards as a city and Commonwealth, hurting our strategic position in an increasingly global economy,” he says. “And, I believe it hurts the very cause of freedom it is intended to defend. This legislation creates more questions than answers for the administration of government, the application of the law, and the protection of civil rights for all of our citizens.”
Among the potential questions Fischer asks Beshear are if a Christian restaurant owner could refuse a Jewish customer or if a business owner could refuse to hire women because he believes their place is in the home.
Earlier this week, leaders with the Louisville Fairness Campaign and Metro Council had voiced disappointed that Fischer had not added his voice to the opposition after the mayor of Covington sent Beshear a similar letter last week.
Beshear is expected to make a decision this week.
Read the letter below: