Religious freedom bill narrowly passes Senate

03/15/2016 06:25 PM

FRANKFORT – Legislation which would allow businesses to deny services based on their religious convictions narrowly cleared the full Senate on Tuesday.

Senate Bill 180 sponsored by Sen. Albert Robinson, R-London, passed the upper chamber with a 22-16 vote.

The legislation would protect small specialty businesses from fines, liabilities, penalties and damages against those who deny service based on their faith.

Robinson said that he brought the legislation forward because small specialty businesses such as florists and bakeries have faced penalties in other states for denying services for same-sex weddings based on their religious convictions.

“The bakeries do sell to the homosexual groups, they would sell to neo-Nazis, they would sell anybody their product but when it comes to, we want this cake with a neo-Nazi emblem on it, and if it’s a Jewish baker, they’d have a right to refuse that and rightfully so,” Robinson said. “If a person’s a Christian and they’re convictions said that they’re opposed to homosexuality, they’ll sell the cake and the cookies but they would not endorse it by putting two men or two women on it or a homosexual insignia or emblems that they have.”

Sen. Brandon Smith, R-Hazard, supported the legislation saying that he expects to see, in his words, more antagonization of businesses.

“Say we have a minority bakery in Louisville, Kentucky and somebody comes in and is a grand wizard, and they want them to make them a cake with the grand wizard symbols on it, and that bakery says, listen folks, we’re not making that cake for you, we would side with these bakers,” Smith said.

Sen. Reggie Thomas, D-Lexington, voted against the legislation saying that it is an attack on LGBT rights.

“When you take that approach, that’s no different than what we saw back in the 1930’s when there was rampant antisemitism in this country, or back in the 1950’s and 60’s when blacks were fighting and demanding civil rights,” Thomas said. “We just have to fast forward 50 years now where gays are just demanding their rightful place in our society as equal citizens.”

Currently, a lawsuit is under appeal in Lexington concerning the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission’s decision that Hands On Originals violated the city’s fairness ordinance in declining to print T-shirts for the Lexington Pride Festival in 2012.

A Fayette Circuit Court judge overturned the human right’s commission’s 2014 order against Hands On Originals, which would have prevented the company from similar action in the future. That decision is currently under appeal.

Because of the ongoing litigation, Sen. Chris McDaniel, R-Taylor Mill, was one of five Republicans to vote against the bill.

“The fact of the matter is, we’re setting up two different kinds of businesses in this and I’m fearful with what we’re doing with that,” McDaniel said. “I’m fearful that we’re not extending the protections that we intend to extend with it.”

SB 180 now moves on to the House.

Amended safe disposal of hypodermic needles bill passes Senate

House Bill 160 , sponsored by Rep. Mike Denham, which would require the Department for Public Health to establish guidelines for safe disposal of hypodermic syringes, needles and provide guidelines to certain medical facilities and pharmacies, was amended and passed by the full Senate chamber by a 28-10 vote.

Rep. Whitney Westerfield, R-Hopkinsville, amended the bill adding the requirement that a needle exchange be on a one-for-one basis. Currently only Jefferson County operates a free exchange.

The amended bill will go back to the House for consideration.


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