Kentucky Democrats may overturn governor’s veto of ‘religious freedom’ bill (UPDATED)

By David Ferguson
Tuesday, March 26, 2013 10:13 EDT
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KY Gov Steve Beshear official
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Democrats in the Kentucky state House voted on Monday to bring an override of Gov. Steve Beshear (R)’s veto of the state’s controversial Religious Freedom Act to the floor for a vote on Tuesday. According to the Lexington Herald-Reader, the House’s Democratic caucus only arrived at the decision after heated debate.

Amber Duke, communications manager of the Kentucky ACLU told Raw Story that the vote count on the House decision was 27 to 26 in favor of bringing the veto before the House, which is scheduled to convene at 10:00 a.m. Tuesday, but has not said when it will vote on the measure.

House Bill 279, known as the Religious Freedom Act would allow Kentuckians to ignore laws that they feel place an undue burden on their religious beliefs. More than 50 rights groups have opposed the bill, arguing that it would undermine anti-discrimination laws.

Gov. Beshear vetoed the law earlier this month after it passed easily in both houses of the state legislature, earning plaudits from the ACLU and other civil rights organizations that, like the governor, felt that the law was so broadly written as to open to door to legalized discrimination.

Beshear met with House Democrats in a closed session on Monday to explain his opposition to the bill, which he said would leave the state vulnerable to costly lawsuits. He later spoke to the Herald-Reader about the session, saying, “I don’t have any idea on what action they might take,” Beshear said. “I obviously don’t want them to override my veto, because I think I made the right decision.”

The governor said that he supports freedom of religion, but is concerned that the Religious Freedom Act goes too far. The Republican-led state Senate has pledged to override the governor’s veto should the House fail to do so.

Other items currently before the state legislature include a bill allowing military personnel to vote via email from overseas and a bill to allow a Christians-only health care plan in the state.

UPDATE: Amber Duke of the ACLU emailed Raw Story Tuesday night with news that the Kentucky state House voted to overrule Gov. Beshear’s veto 79 to 15. The proposal now goes before the state Senate, where it has even greater approval than in the House, making the likelihood of its passage a virtual certainty.

David Ferguson
David Ferguson
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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