Politics

Kentucky businesses could invoke their religious beliefs to refuse service to gay, lesbian or transgender customers under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The measure passed the Republican-led Senate on a 22-16 vote Tuesday. It’s a response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Republican Sen. Albert Robinson said his bill seeks to protect businesses from civil damages and legal fees for refusing to participate in same-sex marriage celebrations due to conscientious objections.

Democratic Sen. Reginald Thomas said the bill promotes “bigotry and hatred.”

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, told The Courier-Journal the bill is “extremely dangerous.”

“If anything, this encourages people to discriminate,” he said.

The Senate narrowed the bill’s application to businesses providing customized or creative goods and services. That could include bakeries, florists and photographers.

Before the vote, Louisville Republican Sen. Julie Raque Adams encouraged her colleagues to oppose the measure.

The bill goes to the Democratic-controlled House next. It is unclear whether the House will consider the legislation.