Group again protests Ky. Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast over insurer's policies

08/25/2016 04:10 PM

LOUISVILLE — A group of more than two dozen protesters organized by the Fairness Campaign stood outside the Kentucky Exposition Center before Thursday’s Kentucky Farm Bureau Ham Breakfast, hoping to pressure the insurance company into changing policies they view as discriminatory.

Some examples include the Farm Bureau’s recognition of marriage as a union between a man and a woman, opposition to state-supported benefits to same-sex couples and opposition to collective bargaining for public school employees.

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said some protestors had bought tickets to the event after Kentucky State Police arrested three, including Hartman, at last year’s breakfast. Charges were ultimately dismissed, and the trio filed suit against the arresting troopers.

The group did not take action at the breakfast except to leave the event during KFB President Mark Haney’s speech in which he defended the policy platform crafted by the company’s members. None were arrested.

“I think just us being there will be protest enough with state troopers hovering behind us,” Hartman told reporters before the breakfast.

The group was joined by Congressman John Yarmuth, who stood outside the exposition center’s entrance rather than go inside as a guest.

The Louisville Democrat said he spoke with Farm Bureau officials last year about his opposition to the insurance agency’s policy stance.

KFB officials “were very respectful of my opinion, and they were not the least bit hesitant to talk about them, but they said those were their members, they felt that, I think the rationale is that this is part of the agricultural culture and that’s why they have these policies in their manual,” Yarmuth said.

“But again, these are things that, particularly with regard to gay marriage, you’re talking about a policy that is in contradiction with the law of the United States.”

Haney pushed back against criticism of the insurance company’s policies, saying those are crafted by members in a democratic process. Haney said his group does not discriminate and follows the law.

“Our policies reflect our membership in Kentucky’s rural communities,” he said in his speech at the breakfast. “One thing about the Farm Bureau is our reliability in our democratic process in constructing our policy and electing our leadership has reliably occurred every year since our existence. Positions change, people change, but the democratic process and its reliability never does.”

Gov. Matt Bevin made light of the protest in his remarks while Sen. Rand Paul praised the group’s policies and its advocacy efforts in Washington.

“I know some people don’t like ham, but I don’t know if you saw some of these people outside,” Bevin said. “They’re taking it to an extreme that, I mean, they apparently really don’t like ham.”

Said Paul: “I get a manual every year from (Farm Bureau) and I read it and I say, ‘Hooray.’ You know, we’ve got to have tolerance on both sides. The other just wants to tell us we’ve got to give up on everything we believe in. What about the other side tolerating Christians who believe in traditional beliefs?”

Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, Paul’s opponent in the Nov. 8 election and the state’s first openly gay statewide candidate, said he believed that the Farm Bureau should change its views on same-sex marriage.

“I think the Farm Bureau needs to adjust and adapt to the times,” Gray said.

Pure Politics Managing Editor Nick Storm contributed to this report.


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