A bill that would protect Kentuckians from discrimination based on sexual orientation is unlikely to be voted on this year.
The statewide fairness law was given a public presentation in a crowded House Judiciary Committee hearing on Wednesday, but state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian said it didn’t have enough votes on the committee to pass.
“As long as people feel like they’re taking a political hit to vote for fairness, it’s going to be difficult,” she said.
Marzian, a Louisville Democrat, has sponsored the bill for years. The legislation was given a committee hearing in 2014, but it’s never received an official vote.
Despite being on the Democratic Party’s national platform, support for LGBT issues can be hard to come by in the party’s Frankfort ranks.
In advance of the 2015 Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage, 37 out of 65 Democrats signed a brief advising the court to uphold state bans on same-sex marriage, including in Kentucky.
Marzian said she expects her bill to get a vote within the next two to three years, once more younger residents get elected to the legislature.
“It’s a no-brainer for young people. They’re like, ‘Why? Why aren’t you passing that in the legislature?’” Marzian said.
According to a Bluegrass Poll from 2015, 57 percent of Kentuckians opposed legalizing same-sex marriage.
House Democrats are under especially intense pressure to show their conservative credentials this year, when all 100 seats in the chamber are up for election in November.
So far, the chamber has signed off on an informed consent abortion bill, which will require women to have an in-person or videoconference meeting with a doctor 24 hours before getting an abortion.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, also said the nondiscrimination bill is unlikely to get a vote anytime soon.
“I don’t sense that there’s a great groundswell of support to want to address that issue,” he said.
Stumbo said he’s “for treating people fairly,” but he added that he hasn’t given the legislation much consideration.
Eight Kentucky cities have enacted local fairness laws. They are: Louisville, Lexington, Covington, Morehead, Frankfort, Danville, Midway and the small Appalachian town of Vicco.
Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said passing the fairness law was the right thing to do.
“If the history of progress is any indication, the future will shake its head at us if we don’t continue moving forward and expanding the borders of justice and equality,” Vandegrift said.