Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kentucky House overrides Governor's veto of House Bill 279

House Bill 279 Statement

Jordan Palmer, President

Kentucky Equality Federation is extremely disappointed with House leadership for overriding House Bill 279, the "Forced Religion Imposition Act."  Allowing the House Democratic Caucus to vote 'anonymously' to decide to override the veto isn't open government and it isn't transparency, it is however cowardly. 

People and organizations around the commonwealth from mayors to citizen activists organized to oppose this dreadful and hurtful legislation. Kentucky Equality Federation has pushed to have this bill vetoed before it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats, this is legislation we couldn't kill with a simple telephone call or meeting.

House Bill 279 does 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 can impose their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so.

Kentucky lawmakers needed to define language in House Bill 279 before it became law such as what constitutes a ‘burden’ and what constitutes a ‘substantial’ burden to someone’s religious beliefs.

As noted by our Vice President of Legal, Jillian Hall, Esq., similar laws to this proposed bill have been passed in several other states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1997 (as applied to the states), though it remains federal law.

Until last night however, this law did not apply to the commonwealth of Kentucky.
As I have said before, the Kentucky Democratic Party is out of touch with the national Democratic Party. However, this was expected, given the continued loses Democrats have suffered since the 2010 election to Tea Party Republicans, Democrats cannot appear to be soft on Religion. Even with loses, this does not justify sacrificing your political beliefs.

Still, it remains to be seem if House Bill 279 can withstand a court challenge which our legal department is working on now. 

In the future, because of threats related to House Bill 279, not only will our toll-free number override anonymous callers, but being calling the Office of Chairman of the Board (the Chair and Vice Chair) or members of the Office of the President (the President and all Vice Presidents) will be recorded.  One lady also called to ask if it was legal to say LGBTI people are abominations at the rally the Family Foundation of Kentucky held on Tuesday.

House Bill 279 has the potential to harm local ordinances in place in Covington, Louisville, Lexington and Vicco.  Kentucky Equality Federation's legal department will sue the commonwealth of Kentucky with the first complaint we receive that House Bill 279 has been used to justify discrimination, termination, or school bullying regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

People also made threats about the Red State Brief which Kentucky Equality Federation signed with 25 other statewide organizations with the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief contends that many local state laws are designed to routinely deny gay citizens basic civil rights, and many state codes are woven in a tangle that can only be unraveled by the courts.

Kentucky Equality Federation again thanks every person and every organization who made a stand with us on the right side of history.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Governor Beshear Vetoes House Bill 279

STATEMENT ON HOUSE BILL 279

Jordan Palmer, President

The Kentucky Equality Federation is ecstatic to hear and report of Governor Beshear's veto of House Bill 279, the 'Forced Religion Imposition Act.'

I have spoken in detail to officials in the Governor's Office as well as senior Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo, also the chair of the House Standing Committee on Economic Development about House Bill 279. Senior Representative Palumbo changed her vote once she realized the far reaching implications House Bill 279 has.

People and organizations around the commonwealth from mayors to citizen activists organized to oppose this dreadful and hurtful legislation. Kentucky Equality Federation has pushed to have this bill vetoed before it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats, this is legislation we couldn't kill with a simple telephone call or meeting.

Governor Beshear is pushing Kentucky to once again being a leader in civil rights protection for minorities throughout the Commonwealth by not infringing on their city equality ordinances in Covington, Lexington, Louisville, and Vicco.

We applaud Steve Beshear for being an effective Governor and Commander-in-Chief; to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus,’ and Governor Beshear has done exactly that.

Both Republicans and Democrats need to think carefully before deciding to override a veto since the governor and his legal staff has listened to both sides of the argument.

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.

Kentucky lawmakers needs to first define language in House Bill 279 before it becomes law. What constitutes a ‘burden’ is undefined in the proposed law. One of the amendments proposed and accepted by Representative Owens also fails to qualify what a ‘substantial’ burden to someone’s religious beliefs are.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kentucky Equality Federation letter to Governor Beshear to veto House Bill 279

Kentucky Equality Federation urges Governor Steve Beshear to veto House Bill 279, the "FORCED RELIGION IMPOSITION ACT."

Click here to view a copy in PDF.

The Honorable Steve Beshear
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
Capitol Office 700 Capitol Avenue
Suite 100
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

The Honorable Steve Beshear
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
The Governor's Mansion
704 Capitol Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601

Kentucky Equality Federation, a non-government (NGO), non-profit organization with United Nations NGO observer and consultative status for minority issues hereby urges you to veto House Bill 279 for reasons outlined below. Kentucky Equality Federation has no doubt this legislation will pass the Senate having passed the House of Representatives.

Kentucky Equality Federation is Kentucky's largest all-volunteer grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex ("LGBTI") civil rights and advocacy organization for both social and political equality. 
Kentucky Equality Federation believes all people are endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment free from oppression, discrimination, school bullying, and hate crimes regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, veteran status, political affiliation, or any other defining characteristic. 
The end of discrimination is not simply the elimination of flagrant abuses, rather it is the ability of a person to fully exercise their Kentucky human rights to the same full extent enjoyed by their peers, without fear of retribution, aspersion, or harm, be that harm political or social.
We assist and act as public advocate for people who have been bullied, discriminated against, or victimized in addition to assisting them with legal remedies. 
When the laws have not caught up to the moral needs of society, we will seek their modification, pursuant to the creation of a just society. 

Kentucky Equality Federation also asks if House Bill 279 would violate your executive order 2008-0473, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Kentucky’s Government.

FOLLOWING ARE COMMENTS BY PRESIDENT JORDAN PALMER:  
The emancipation of slaves, voting rights for women, and the civil rights movements were landmark victories for the cause of equality, but this struggle continues today and House Bill 279 is nothing short of legal discrimination against a minority group otherwise unprotected by the laws of this commonwealth.

House Bill 279 represents a clear and present danger to the gay and lesbian community and other minority groups around the commonwealth. Both the Kentucky and U.S. constitution provide for freedom of religion and Kentucky Equality Federation supports freedom of religion.

As you know, in 2010 the Kentucky House of Representatives passed Resolution 232, the Manhattan Declaration making Christianity the official religion of the Commonwealth.

House Bill 279 does 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.

FOLLOWING ARE COMMENTS BY VICE PRESIDENT OF LEGAL JILLIAN HALL, Esq.:
House Bill 279 has the potential to harm local ordinances in place in Covington, Louisville, Lexington and Vicco.

Essentially, an individual can continue to discriminate against a gay individual in violation of the ordinance and be protected under this new law by showing that it is in conflict with their closely held religious beliefs. While the language adding “substantial” to the burden (via an amendment to the bill) does add some protections, the law still is a major step backward for the equality movement.

Right now, people discriminate freely and openly against the gay community without recourse due to the lack of a Kentucky statewide equality law.

Similar laws to this proposed bill have been passed in several other states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1997 (as applied to the states).

This law is nothing more than a poor recitation of the First Amendment, and is a thinly veiled move by the legislature showing their lack of respect or tolerance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex community (LGBTI).

While I do not feel that this will significantly affect anything in the courts, this law, along with the Manhattan Declaration of 2010 acts to block forward progress and is a continued embarrassment for the Commonwealth.

FINAL COMMENTS BY PRESIDENT JORDAN PALMER:
Governor, today the U.S. President signed domestic violence protections which included the LGBTI community. Though we support the sovereignty of the commonwealth of Kentucky against an oversized and intrusive federal government, we have no choice but to continue to turn to them for protections because our Kentucky lawmakers continue to fail us.

We again appeal to you to as our chief of state and chief of government to veto House Bill 279.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding this matter toll-free at (877) KEF-5775 – Ext. 5.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kentucky Equality Federation Condemns House Bill 279 - Forced Religious Imposition Act

KENTUCKY EQUALITY FEDERATION RESPONDS TO HOUSE BILL 279
CONDEMNS 'FORCED RELIGION IMPOSITION ACT'

“Kentucky House Bill 279 lays the groundwork for legalized discrimination and is detrimental to the equal rights movement for all LGBTI residents of the Commonwealth,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation’s Chairman of the Board, Brandon Combs. “This legislation also has the potential to negatively impact a wide-range of individuals beyond the LGBTI community, such as single parents and divorced couples. The passing of this legislation threatens to push the state back to the 1960s prior to the passage of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.”

“House Bill 279 represents a clear and present danger to the gay and lesbian community and other minority groups around the commonwealth,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer. “Thousands of Kentuckians are opposing the legislation. We urge Governor Steve Beshear to veto the legislation. Both the Kentucky and U.S. constitutions provide for freedom of religion and Kentucky Equality Federation supports freedom of religion. However, what we need is freedom from religion; lawmakers use religion as a means to deny someone a fundamental civil right. In 2010 the Kentucky House of Representatives passed Resolution 232, the Manhattan Declaration making Christianity the official religion of the Commonwealth. (voting record). House Bill 279 does 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.

KENTUCKY EQUALITY FEDERATION - LEGAL DEPARTMENT SUMMARY:

To break it down, Kentucky Equality Federation’s Vice President of Legal, Jillian Hall, Esq. stated: “House Bill 279 has the potential to harm local ordinances in place in Louisville, Lexington and Vicco. Essentially, an individual can continue to discriminate against a gay individual in violation of the ordinance and be protected under this new law by showing that it is in conflict with their closely held religious beliefs. While the language adding “substantial” to the burden (via an amendment to the bill) does add some protections, as it is very difficult to meet the level of “substantial burden” in the courts (as would have to be shown by the discriminating party), the law still is a major step backward for the equality movement."

Hall continued:  "Right now, people discriminate freely and openly against the gay community without recourse due to the lack of a Kentucky statewide equality law. Similar laws to this proposed bill have been passed in several other states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1997 (as applied to the states). This law is nothing more than a poor recitation of the First Amendment, and is a thinly veiled move by the legislature showing their lack of respect or tolerance for the LGBTI community. While I do not feel that this will significantly affect anything in the courts, this law, along with the Manhattan Declaration of 2010 as mentioned by Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer, acts to block forward progress and is a continued embarrassment for the Commonwealth.”

Kentucky Equality Federation will continue to monitor House Bill 279 and may challenge it in court if it undermines equality efforts.