Kentucky's 'Religious Freedom' Bill Isn't About Obamacare or LGBT Rights, Says Legislator

The Kentucky legislature voted Tuesday to override Democratic Gov. Steve Beshear's veto of HB 279, known as the religious freedom bill that faced staunch opposition from LGBT groups, Planned Parenthood and the ACLU.

Kentucky House members voted 79 to 15 to overturn the governor's veto and the Senate voted 32 to 6 to complete the override.

House bill 279 states that its aim is to ensure that the government doesn't interfere or impose on a person or organization's freedom of religion, and requires the government to "prove by clear and convincing evidence" its interest in burdening one's right to freedom of religion.

Rep. Robert Damron (D-Nicholasville) told The Christian Post on Friday activists' claims that HB 279 will infringe on people's right to access contraceptives or abortifacients are wrong, and added that the legislation has nothing to do with Obamacare or any healthcare mandate.

Damron said he introduced the legislation in response to the state's actions requiring members of the Amish community to display "bright orange metal signs on the back of their buggies, which the Amish are opposed to, because the signs are not plain."

Although the state of Kentucky believed the bright orange triangle signs would protect the Amish from passing vehicles, the Amish believed the signs would draw too much attention to them, and would conflict with their religiously held standards and beliefs in humility and modesty.

In 2012, some members of the Amish community in Kentucky served time in jail for violating the state's law.

According to Damron, in the state's actions toward the Amish community presented an example of a "reduction in their religious freedom." He added that the federal government's Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 requires states to "show a compelling interest" when opposing a person's actions based on religious freedom. And, in the case against the Amish in Kentucky, the state only showed a "reasonable interest" when it violated their religious freedom.

Damron also told the CP that LGBT groups opposed HB 279 after the Baptist Convention endorsed the legislation. "None of the fear mongering [about the bill] is actually true," he said, emphasizing that it has nothing to do with the LGBT community, but only aims to further protect the freedom of all religions.

"The bill applies to all people of faith and their religious freedom," said Damron, who believes that some activist groups wanted to use the legislation to include LGBT civil rights language.

Damron added that 12 to 16 states have adopted similar legislation through their states' constitutional amendments in a effort to protect people's religious freedom.

Gov. Beshear said on March 22 that he vetoed HB 279 because he has "… significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and individuals' civil rights. He believes the bill will also "lead to costly litigation."

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

The Kentucky legislature, which overrode Beshear's veto by a large margin, has a Democratic majority in the House of 55 to 45, and the Senate has a Republican majority of 23 to 14 (and one member who is Independent).

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