Ky. bill would let businesses deny LGBT patrons

Posted at 5:34 PM, Feb 25, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. — A Kentucky Senate committee OK’d a bill that — if passed — would allow business owners to refuse service to would-be customers on religious grounds.

The Kentucky Senate Veterans, Military Affairs, and Public Protection Committee sent Senate Bill 180 to the full Senate Thursday for its consideration. The bill would prohibit the government from forcing businesses to provide goods, services or actions to or from individuals if doing so would violate the business owner's religious beliefs.

The bill comes after the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission ordered a Christian T-shirt company to get diversity training for refusing to print shirts for a gay pride festival. A state judge overturned the order, but an appeals court is reviewing the case.

According to Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, the bill’s sponsor and the committee’s chair, the bill also is designed to allay concerns raised by some Kentucky-based, Christian-owned bakeries, florists and photographers who do not wish to assist with same-sex marriages, Lexington’s Herald-Leader reported Thursday.

A Supreme Court ruling in June effectively rendered same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.

The bill was meant to enhance Kentucky’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, passed by lawmakers in 2013, which protected business-owners from punishment in the event they refuse to enter into business based on religious creed.

“All of these business owners want to treat everyone with full human dignity and respect,” Robinson is quoted by the Herald-Leader. “But their consciences and religious beliefs prevent them from using their skills to promote a celebration that runs counter to what the Bible teaches about marriage. Shouldn’t their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion be respected?”

The Georgia legislature is considering similar legislation, and the Missouri legislature is considering amending its state constitution to protect businesses that decline to provide goods or services for same-sex marriage ceremonies or celebrations.

The same Kentucky Senate committee also approved Thursday a bill that would mandate that local school boards allow “artistic or theatrical programs that advance students’ knowledge of society’s cultural and religious heritage and traditions,” the Herald-Leader also reported.

According to the report, the bill, Senate Bill 106, arose out of community outcry over a student production of A Charlie Brown Christmas that removed a Bible verse from the script.

The Herald-Leader’s John Cheves contributed to this report.