Both sides pressing Gov. Beshear on Religious Freedom Act
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WDRB) -- Could a bill passed by the Kentucky legislature lead to discrimination against gays and lesbians? Or does it protect religion? The debate is now in the hands of Governor Beshear.
HB 279 is called the Religious Freedom Act. But opponents says it's not about freedom but discrimination.
"I think we know, absolutely now, that this bill does dangerously open the door to discrimination," said Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign.
The Fairness Campaign is leading the effort to persuade Gov. Beshear to veto the bill.
It's designed to give legal ammunition those who may be opposed to state and local laws based on their religious convictions.
But opponents fear it could be used to challenge laws that ban discrimination based on sexual orientation.
"While the intent might not be discrimination, we do know that the effect would be discrimination," said Derek Selznick of the ACLU
But supporters say the law was prompted by a recent case in which Amish men were jailed for refusing to place reflective safety signs on their buggies.
"It's simply guaranteeing the protections of people of faith," said Paul Chitwood, president of the Kentucky Baptist Convention.
The bill had bipartisan support in both the House and Senate. And the Catholic Conference of Kentucky has sent a letter to the governor urging him to sign it.
"We're balancing rights here. Obviously, we don't want discrimination in housing, employment and basic services. But we also don't want the state to force people to violate their conscience," said Jason Hall of the Catholic Conference of Kentucky.
On Wednesday opponents delivered letters of their own to the Governor's office.
"Religious freedom means that we offer God's inclusive grace and inclusive love, and we stand for that. And any bill that would allow anyone to stand differently we oppose," said Rev. Marsha Charles, pastor of the Bluegrass United Church of Christ.
Gov. Beshear says he has not decided whether he will sign the bill.
"I'm going to be having all of our agencies and other folks give me their comments on it, and then I'm going to take a look at all of that before I make a decision," said Beshear.
Supporters say if the governor vetoes the bill, there are more than enough votes to override that veto when lawmakers return to Frankfort later this month.
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