religious freedom bill

Politics
8:56 pm
Tue March 26, 2013

General Assembly Overrides Gov. Steve Beshear's Veto of 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Credit File photo

In a sweeping bipartisan vote, both chambers of the General Assembly overturned Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear’s veto of the controversial religious freedom bill.

Earlier this week, the House Democratic caucus met behind closed doors to hold a secret ballot, which ultimately favored bringing the measure back to the House floor.

After a half hour of debate, the House rejected the gubernatorial veto by an overwhelming 79-15 margin.

Supporters of the legislation affirmed it does not undermine anyone’s civil rights protections, and only safeguards First Amendment rights.

"There have been attempts to take God out of everything," says state Rep. Stan Lee, R-Lexington, who supported the bill. "They want to take God out of the pledge of allegiance, can you believe that? You don't think your religious freedom is under attack? Then maybe you do believe in a boogeyman."

The law allows individuals the right to act or refuse to act on any laws or regulations that violate tenets of their faith. Opponents have rallied for weeks, arguing it could allow for residents to disregard civil rights protections such as local Fairness laws protecting gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered citizens.

Those who lobbied for the House to override Beshear's veto denied those accusations vehemently, however.

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Politics
12:27 am
Tue March 26, 2013

Kentucky Lawmakers Likely to Override Religious Freedom Bill Veto

Greg Stumbo
Credit Kentucky Legislative Commission

The Kentucky House will vote Tuesday whether to override Gov. Steve Beshear's veto of the "religious freedom" bill.

Many House Democrats supported the bill when it first came up for a vote, though the decision to consider the veto was more contentious when taken up in a Democratic caucus meeting Monday. Speaker Greg Stumbo expects the override to go through, but he's not sure how strong the support will be.

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Strange Fruit
10:39 am
Sat March 23, 2013

Strange Fruit: Rob Portman for Marriage Equality; Trevor Hoppe on the Criminalization of HIV

It's been a week full of political news on the LGBTQ front, so we asked WFPL's political editor, Phillip M. Bailey, to join us for our Juicy Fruit segment this week and help us talk through some of the finer points of these issues. Here in Kentucky, we've been watching and waiting to see what Governor Beshear would do with House Bill 279, the so-called 'religious freedom' bill that would let people ignore civil rights laws that go against their religious beliefs. 

On Monday, we learned the city of Covington had joined the chorus of those opposing the bill and urging a veto. Covington Mayor Sherry Carran sent Beshear a letter warning the bill could "do harm and will present a poor image of our state to progressive professionals and companies who understand and appreciate the value of diversity and open-mindedness."

Naturally, opponents of the bill in Louisville then collectively turned their heads and raised an eyebrow at our own Mayor Greg Fischer, and on Tuesday he sent a letter of his own to the capitol, saying the law was unnecessary. "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. 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."

Indeed, on Friday, Governor Beshear did veto the bill, and now it comes down to whether the General Assembly will override the gubernatorial veto—which it appears to have enough votes to do.

In national news, Senator Rob Portman became the first GOP senator to publicly support marriage equality for LGBTQ folks. He revealed this week that he changed his mind on the issue because his son is gay. Hillary Clinton also released a video statement this week voicing her unequivocal support of same gender marriage, saying "Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights."

But Phillip, who covers politics full time, didn't have the same warm fuzzy feelings as many did over these announcements. He pointed out that Senator Portman has known his son is gay for two years, and that Clinton is widely rumored to be planning a run for president in 2016. So the cynical observer could see these moves as exactly that: PR maneuvers, carefully timed for maximum political advantage.

Jaison, so often the voice of activism and idealism on our show, preferred the less cynical explanation. "Are there any politicians who do the right thing just for the sake of doing it?" We'll let you listen for the discussion that followed.

Earlier this month we mentioned in a Juicy Fruit segment that people in Michigan were suffering legal consequences for supposedly-confidential HIV tests. To learn more, we called Trevor Hoppe. He's a graduate student at the University of Michigan who's studying sexuality, medicine, and the law. Trevor told us there are indeed cases of no- or very-low-risk behavior on the part of HIV-positive folks being treated like deliberate endangerment in the eyes of the law.

He says the criminalization of these seemingly-innocuous acts is a method of social control that has little to do with actually protecting public health. "I think it's just another way that HIV-positive people face a particular kind of stigma, despite the fact that there's no risk in these cases. It's not about that. It's about punishing HIV-positive people as much as the law can facilitate."

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Politics
4:22 pm
Fri March 22, 2013

'Religious Freedom' Bill Sponsor Urges House Leaders to Override Gubernatorial Veto

State Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville

Kentucky Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, is urging fellow Democrats in the state House to override Governor Steve Beshear's veto of the so-called 'religious freedom' bill.

The governor blocked the legislation Friday after tremendous pressure to reject the measure, which would allow residents to ignore any laws or regulations that violate tenets of their faith.

Opponents included a wide range of social justice groups, state organizations and public officials such as Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, who argued House Bill 279 was too vague and could threaten civil rights protections for racial minorities, women and LGBT residents.

Beshear says religious freedom is a cornerstone of American democracy and important to Kentuckians, but the bill’s vague language would be problematic and expensive.

"I have serious concerns that this bill will cause unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care and individual civil rights. As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation,” he says. "I’ve heard from many organizations and governmental entities that share these same concerns. Therefore, after giving this measure thoughtful analysis and consideration, today I vetoed the bill."

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Politics
2:31 pm
Fri March 22, 2013

Gov. Steve Beshear Vetoes Controversial 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Gov. Steve Beshear
Credit Rae Hodge/Kentucky Public Radio

Update: The "religious freedom" bill's sponsor is urging Democrats in the Kentucky House to override the governor's veto.

Earlier: Gov. Steve Beshear on Friday vetoed the controversial "religious freedom" bill recently approved by the Kentucky General Assembly.

Here's his statement: 

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Politics
4:12 pm
Tue March 19, 2013

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Comes Out Against 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer
Credit File photo

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."

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Politics
1:18 pm
Mon March 18, 2013

Covington Mayor, City Commissioners Ask Gov. Beshear to Block 'Religious Freedom' Bill

Steve Beshear
Credit Rae Hodge/Kentucky Public Radio

The mayor and city commissioners of Covington, Kentucky are asking Governor Steve Beshear to block the so-called ‘religious freedom’ bill, renewing pressure for Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer to join the opposition.

In a unanimously approved resolution, the commission says HB 279 presents a risk to Covington’s Human Rights Ordinance, which forbids discrimination against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered residents.

Covington Mayor Sherry Carran has also signed a separate letter urging the governor to veto the measure, saying it is a poor representation of the state.

The bill allows individuals to ignore laws and regulations that violate tenets of their faith, and was overwhelmingly approved by the General Assembly. But in the non-binding measure, Covington officials say the measure could undermine civil rights protections under the "guise of a 'sincerely held religious beliefs'"

Former Covington City Commissioner Shawn Masters says Democrats and Republicans makeup the local assembly, and residents in his city are worried because the law is so broad.

"It says how progressive Covington actually is. That we are very diverse, we welcome all and do not tolerate discrimination of any kind. And it just goes to show here in Northern Kentucky and particularly Covington we are about equality for all," says Masters, who currently serves as president of the Northern Kentucky Democratic League.

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Politics
10:30 pm
Sat March 16, 2013

Noise and Notes: Recaps and Leftovers from the 2013 Kentucky General Assembly

Credit Louisville Public Media

The 2013 Kentucky General Assembly is nearing its end, but there are plenty of important issues still haven't been addressed.

At the beginning of the legislative session much was said about the improved personal relationships between Gov. Steve Beshear and state lawmakers—particularly the GOP-controlled Senate. But if Frankfort is more collegial it hasn't improved productivity.

With two days left for veto days, thorny matters such as pension reform and redistricting haven’t been resolved. No deals are in sight, and there is talk of a special session to sort those priorities out.

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Politics
3:16 pm
Tue March 12, 2013

Groups Plan Rally Urging Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear to Veto ‘Religious Freedom’ Bill

Over four-dozen groups are planning a rally to pressure Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear to block the so-called 'religious freedom' bill.

The measure would allow citizens to ignore laws and regulations based on their religious faith, and it passed both chambers of the General Assembly by an overwhelming margin. Supporters argue the law simply reaffirms the rights for people of faith that have been stripped by the courts.

Those against HB 279 contend lawmakers failed to closely examine the measure or debate its consequences, which they say could threaten civil rights protections for racial minorities, women and LGBT residents.

"It is a moment of political courage for the governor," says Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman. "But I think it’s also a moment to send this legislation back to the House to re-address the concerns that it didn’t address the first time when it hastily passed this measure. Up to a day before the bill was called to the House floor it was losing co-sponsors as people were learning more and more about the unintended consequences."

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