Gov. Steve Beshear vetoed a controversial religious-freedom bill Friday afternoon, saying the measure was well intended but would spark costly taxpayer-funded court cases and bring an array of unintended consequences.
"I have significant concerns that this bill will cause serious unintentional consequences that could threaten public safety, health care and individuals' civil rights," Beshear said in a statement. "As written, the bill will undoubtedly lead to costly litigation."
House Bill 279 would allow someone with "sincerely held" religious beliefs to disregard state laws "unless the government proves by clear and convincing evidence that it has a compelling governmental interest in infringing" the person's religious freedom. Gay rights and human rights groups have said the bill could be used to challenge local anti-discrimination laws that protect gays and lesbians in Lexington, Louisville, Covington and Vicco.
"My religious beliefs are that (non-white people/LGBT people/non-Christians/women) are cursed by God, and I refuse to serve them. It's now up to the Commonwealth to prove with clear and convincing evidence that they can infringe on my right to be a racist bigot."
Sure, this law won't cause lawsuits or anything. I wonder how long this lasts if you replace the category up there with "white men". Odds are we're going to find out really soon.
The sponsor of House Bill 279, Rep. Bob Damron, D-Nicholasville, said he thinks he'll have the 51 votes required to override the veto if House leaders decide to take a vote. Damron said Beshear, a Democrat, did not ask him or Democratic House leaders to refrain from trying to override the bill during a conversation of more than an hour Friday in the governor's Capitol office.
In a written statement, Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, said, "The Senate is prepared to override the veto of HB 279 if and when the Speaker moves to do so. As a House bill, that chamber must act on the bill first."
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said in a statement that Democratic leaders "will be discussing what action to take with our caucus."
The House passed the bill earlier this month with only seven dissenting votes. The Republican-led Senate passed it 29-6.
Lawmakers return to Frankfort on Monday for the final two days of the legislative session. Damron said there will be enough time to override the veto by midnight Tuesday.
So yeah, unless House Speaker Stumbo can talk the Blue Dogs down, Kentucky's about to become the land of 4.4 million theocracies. Still, I'd love to see some atheists start refusing to serve anyone with religious beliefs.
In fact, I think that needs to happen...