The Richmond Register

Local News

March 22, 2013

‘Religious freedom’ bill vetoed by Beshear

FRANKFORT — FRANKFORT — Saying he cherishes religious freedom but fears “serious unintended consequences” of a bill to guarantee sincerely held religious beliefs, Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed the measure Friday.

His action immediately came under attack from conservative groups while drawing praise from others who fear the law would undermine enforcement of fair housing and non-discrimination laws and ordinances.

Critics of the bill maintain it is also unnecessary, that religious freedom and rights are guaranteed by the U.S. and Kentucky constitutions.

Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, immediately announced the Republican-controlled Senate is prepared to override the veto but expects the Democratic-controlled House to act first.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would say only that he would discuss the veto with Democratic members of the House.

House Bill 279 was sponsored by Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, and would permit someone to disregard some state laws which conflict with their “sincerely held religious beliefs,” unless the government could demonstrate “by clear and convincing evidence a compelling state interest” in enforcing the law.

The bill easily passed the House 82-7 while the Senate voted for it 29-6, both majorities more than enough to override Beshear’s veto. Kentucky’s constitution requires only a simple majority — 51 in the 100-member House and 20 in the 38-member Senate — to override a governor’s veto.

It didn’t take long for Stivers to say that won’t be difficult.

“The Senate is prepared to override the veto of HB279 if and when the Speaker moves to do so,” Stivers said in a statement released by his spokeswoman. “As a House bill, that chamber must act on the bill first.”

It did not take long for Martin Cothran of the conservative Family Foundation to react.

“This puts churches around the Commonwealth of Kentucky on notice that the First Amendment religious freedoms they thought their government respected may now be negotiable,” Cothran said in a press release moments after the governor’s announcement. “We just hope elected lawmakers in the Legislature will act quickly to correct the Governor’s action. We think they will.”

But in announcing his veto, Beshear provided a list of those organizations and groups which urged him to veto HB 279 including associations of city and county officials, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, teachers’ groups, the American Civil Liberties Union, fairness coalitions, and even some individual churches.

“I value and cherish our rights to religious freedom, and I appreciate the good intentions of House Bill 279 and the members of the General Assembly who supported this bill to protect our constitutional rights to practice our religion,” said Beshear in his veto message. “However, I have significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and individuals’ civil rights,” Beshear continued. “As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation. I have heard from many organizations and government entities that share those same concerns. Therefore, after giving this measure thoughtful analysis and consideration, today I vetoed the bill.”

Critics of the legislation, led by gay rights groups and local government officials and associations, said it could be used to challenge anti-discrimination laws and ordinances. Local officials also feared it might be used by disgruntled employees to avoid some duties or disciplinary action.

Damron has called those fears overblown and said the law is similar to a federal law and laws in at least 16 other states.

Beshear, however, said HB 279 differs from those laws because of its vague language and imprecise legal standards which might be used to weaken civil rights laws or hamper economic development.

“Citizens and governmental entities are entitled to a clear understanding of the boundaries of permissible conduct,” Beshear said. “This bill, as written, while well intended, is undermined by precarious legal wording.”

Beshear said he is willing to work with lawmakers to craft an alternative bill which addresses his fears of unintended consequences.

Lawmakers will have the chance to override the veto on Monday and Tuesday when they return to Frankfort for the final two days of the 2013 General Assembly.

Ronnie Ellis writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at rellis@cnhi.com. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • 4-23 Gravestone.jpg In search of the last resting place

    At a popular illegal dump site off Bybee Loop in Waco, two marble grave markers were among some items found there by Pat and Ronnie Aldridge, residents who live about 250 yards from the area.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Fiscal court awards EMA bids

    Two more bids were awarded at Tuesday’s Madison County Fiscal Court meeting for the emergency operations agency.

    April 22, 2014

  • 4-23 Peter Crowe.jpg Intoxicated man charged with wanton endangerment

    A 27-year-old Richmond man was charged Sunday with second-degree wanton endangerment after he was found intoxicated and walking with several young children in the Keystone Drive area, according to a Richmond police report.

    April 22, 2014 1 Photo

  • Absentee voting available for May 20 election

    Walk-in absentee voting for the May 20 primary has begun and will continue until May 19, County Clerk Kenny Barger announced Tuesday at the Madison Fiscal Court meeting.

    April 22, 2014

  • 4-23 Tab-a-PULLooza1.jpg Friday last day to collect pop tabs for Tab-a-Pullooza

    Before throwing that soda can in the recycling bin, twist off the pop tab and donate it to a local elementary or middle school for this year’s Tab-a-Pullooza celebration.

    April 22, 2014 4 Photos

  • Pot throwing downtown leads to arrest

    A Berea man was arrested Saturday after police say he damaged a downtown Richmond business and a parked vehicle by throwing flower pots.
    Jonathan A. McCullough, 34, was charged with first- and third-degree criminal mischief as well as alcohol intoxication, according to a Richmond police report.

    April 21, 2014

  • London police chief ordered to stay away from Berea woman

    A woman who who moved to Berea in February 2013 after a live-in relationship with London Police Chief Stewart O. Walker has obtained an emergency protective order against him from Madison Family Court.

    April 21, 2014

  • Task force reveals plan to make ‘Meaningful Math' matter

    It’s all too common to hear parents say, “I was never good at math...,” as if to excuse their children for not being good at math, said Madison County Schools Superintendent Elmer Thomas.

    April 21, 2014

  • WP_20140419_001.jpg Cruisin’ with the Oldies

    With the sound of classic songs wafting through the air Saturday, hundreds of people took advantage of the summer-like temperatures and turned out for the Kirksville Community Center car show.

    April 21, 2014 9 Photos

  • 4-18 Hong Kong 1.JPG Hong Kong fifth-graders visit Kit Carson

    A group of students from Hong Kong got a taste of the bluegrass last week thanks to an invitational education program at Kit Carson Elementary School.

    April 21, 2014 3 Photos

AP Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Poll

Should Richmond rezone the southwest corner of Main Street and Tates Creek Avenue to B-1 (Neighborhood Business) with restrictions to allow construction of a financial services office?

Yes
No
     View Results