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LGBT activists rage over proposed Kentucky bill that would improve protections for religious liberty
Photo by STEFANI REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

LGBT activists rage over proposed Kentucky bill that would improve protections for religious liberty

Kentucky Republicans are poised to pass legislation that would serve to better protect religious liberty against the kinds of attacks both predicted in 2015 and highlighted this week by Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito.

The prospect that the GOP supermajorities in the state House and Senate will successfully pass House Bill 47 has LGBT activist groups and other radical outfits raging. After all, it might serve to wrest the government away from them as another mechanism of ideological control and legally empower of those who resist their agenda.

The bill

HB 47, for which state Rep. Steve Rawlings (R) is the primary sponsor, successfully passed the state House Judiciary Committee on a 14-6 vote Wednesday.

Rawlings indicated that the intent of the proposed legislation is to give Kentuckians a "fair day in court" should they find their religious freedoms being infringed by governmental actions or forces, reported WPSD-TV.

"Ultimately, this bill seeks to ensure that religious rights are adequately protected," said Rawlings. "HB 47 ensures that Kentucky courts will use the most accommodating language to ensure that religious Kentuckians have a fair day in court."

HB 47 would amend the state's current religious freedom law, in effect since 2013, elaborating on the definition of "government" and what "substantially burden" would mean in the context of the statement that the "government shall not substantially burden a person's freedom of religion."

Under the proposed legislation, a substantial burden would be taken to mean "any action that directly or indirectly constrains, inhibits, curtails, or denies the exercise of religion by any person or compels any action contrary to a person's exercise of religion, including but not limited to: 1) Withholding benefits; 2) Assessing criminal, civil, or administrative penalties; or 3) Excluding from governmental programs or access to governmental facilities."

Extra to making clear precisely what qualifies as a burden, the bill affords Kentuckians "whose religious exercise has been substantially burdened" the ability to take legal action and seek injunctive relief, declaratory relief, compensatory damages, costs, and attorney's fees.

David Walls, executive director of the Family Foundation, stressed that "this important bill ... will give stronger protection to our first freedom," reported Kentucky Today.

"HB 47 provides much-needed updates to Kentucky's Religious Freedom Restoration Act to ensure that every Kentuckian is free to simply live out their faith without government interference," added Walls.

Rainbow outrage

The ACLU of Kentucky has railed against the legislation, complaining that it would force the government to meet a high legal standard when clamping down on religious freedoms.

"This biil [sic] is so broad that, if it passes, it could allow people to challenge virtually ANY law if they believe it impacts their religious beliefs or practice and by forcing the government to meet the strictest legal standard of review when defending those laws," wrote the ACLU of Kentucky. "House Bill 47 would also make it harder for the government to enforce laws that protect people from discrimination."

The radical group characterized the legislation as an "anti-fairness/'jackpot justice' bill" and suggested elsewhere that it is an "anti-LGBTQ+" bill.

The leftist group Vocal Kentucky claimed the bill is "a direct attack on LGBTQ Fairness Ordinances, which have protected Kentuckians at the local level for 25 years," suggesting further that it will serve to pad "the pockets of anti-LGBTQ hate groups like Alliance Defending Freedom."

WPSD noted that Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, another LGBT activist outfit, has similarly painted the effort to protect religious freedom as an assault on non-straight people.

"There are 24 communities all across our commonwealth that have stood up to protect LGBTQ people, and you're putting every one of them at risk if you pass House Bill 47," Hartman told the House Judiciary Committee.

Kentucky's Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear said amidst the so-called Fairness Campaign rally this week, "Thirteen anti-LGBTQ+ bills already. I'll get the veto pen ready again this year."

There's a good chance Republicans may once again be able to override Beshear's vetoes.

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