Target: Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear
Goal: Reject proposal that would allow religious beliefs to trump anti-discrimination laws
One of the most controversial components of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act has been the so-called contraception mandate that requires employers cover birth control for female workers, prompting outcry from anti-birth control religious leaders. Many states have pushed back on the mandate, and in response the President has continued to work with policymakers and church leaders. However, for some, the mandate continues to be intolerable, and the state of Kentucky is now proposing a dangerous piece of legislation in response that could chip away at discrimination protection laws.
The bill called, the “Religious Freedom Act,” recently cleared Kentucky’s Senate, and now will head to the desk of the state’s governor, Steve Beshear (D). The legislation dictates that people and organizations can refuse to abide by laws and regulations if they violate a “sincerely held religious belief.” The vagueness of the bill poses a threat to civil rights, in that it could legalize discrimination based on sexual orientation, race or gender if an employer or institution simply invokes the law to justify such discrimination.
Senator Kathey Stein, a Democrat, says of the bill, “We shouldn’t even be talking about this. We should not even be considering this, it violates section V of our constitution. We took an oath to uphold it, remember? We took an oath to uphold this constitution, we didn’t take an oath to be re-elected.” She is worried the bill could undermine non-discrimination housing laws in the state.
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights is standing up to the provision, and imploring Governor Beshear to veto the bill. Civil rights activists and the Commission are particularly worried about the law enabling people to ignore local fairness ordinances that protect historically marginialized groups.
John Johnson, executive director of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights worries if the bill passes, “people can hide behind religious freedoms and discriminate in any way they feel. Sign the petition below to prevent Kentucky from legally sanctioning such blatant discrimination.
Dear Governor Beshear,
The 2012 election was proof that the majority of the American people support President Obama and his legislative efforts. The President has made a concerted attempt to work with religious leaders on the so-called contraception mandate of the Affordable Care Act, and the fact that House Bill 729 still passed through Kentucky’s legislature is a gross overreaction to the mandate.
To permit individuals and organizations to defy laws because of something as ambiguously defined as “religious belief” will weaken the anti-discrimination laws that civil rights leaders have worked so hard to realize. Chipping away at these laws represents a step backwards in the American journey, to a place we should be wary of revisiting.
We respect and understand people’s religious values and convictions. President Obama’s Healthcare law however does not do anything to actively take away religious freedoms. Americans are all still free to worship as they please. Imposing legislation that diminishes protections laid out for historically marginalized groups in response to a hypothetical fear that religious freedom is under threat, is a disturbing and regressive notion. Please reject House Bill 729 and preserve civil rights for the people of your state.
[Your Name Here]
photo credit: public