Beshear vetoes 'religious freedom bill'; Senate President vows to override veto

03/22/2013 02:10 PM

Updated with a reaction from House leadership: Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed a controversial bill which has been promoted as a religious freedom measure on Friday citing “unintentional consequences.”

House Bill 279 says that someone who acts because of a sincere religious belief can’t be infringed upon unless the government can show “clear and convincing evidence” that it violates other laws.

In a release sent out by the governor’s office, Beshear said he values and cherishes “our rights to religious freedom” and that he appreciated what lawmakers were attempting to do. But Beshear, who served as attorney general from 1979 to 1983, said he believed the bill just didn’t pass muster.

“I have significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care, and individuals’ civil rights. As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation,” Beshear said.

The Kentucky Equality Federation has urged Beshear to defeat the measure because of concerns that it could infringe on equality rights passed by several Kentucky cities.

“House Bill 279 did nothing more than give people permission to discriminate based on their religious beliefs thereby taking it beyond ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘forced religion’ because they have imposed their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so,” said Jordan Palmer, the president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, in a statement.

The bill will now head back to the General Assembly where legislators can override Beshear’s veto if the members agree to do so on Monday or Tuesday — the last two days of the 2013 session.

And that is just what Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said the Senate would do.

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

House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said the Democratic caucus would meet to discuss what action to take on the measure.

The National Association of Social Workers congratulated Beshear on the “courageous move to protect the rights of all Kentuckians.” The group is asking House leadership to hold the bill until January 2014 when the General Assembly is next scheduled to reconvene.

“…So that all interested parties can sit at the table and discuss ways to remedy the unintended consequences of the bill in its current state.”


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