Kentucky Senate approves 'religious freedom' bill letting businesses reject gay customers
LGBT pride flags (Shutterstock)

The Kentucky state Senate narrowly approved a bill on Tuesday allowing business owners to reject LGBT clients because of their religious beliefs, the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

The measure, Senate Bill 180, passed on a 22-16 vote. State Sen. Albert Robinson (R), who sponsored the bill, called it a "common-sense, live-and-let-live" measure.

The bill, which is now headed to the state House for deliberation, effectively repeals anti-discrimination statutes covering LGBT residents in eight cities: Covington, Danville, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Midway, Morehead and Vicco. It states that " no statute, regulation, ordinance, order, judgment, or other law or action by any court, commission, or other public agency shall impair, impede, infringe upon, or otherwise restrict the exercise of protected rights by any protected activity provider."

According to The Advocate, Robinson pursued the bill in response to a fine imposed on a local t-shirt printer by the Lexington Human Rights Commission after the printer refused to make shirts for an event celebrating LGBT pride in 2012. The fine was later overturned in court.

"All of these business owners want to treat everyone with full human dignity and respect," Robinson said at a hearing last month concerning the measure. "But their consciences and religious beliefs prevent them from using their skills to promote a celebration that runs counter to what the Bible teaches about marriage. Shouldn’t their rights to freedom of speech and freedom of religion be respected?"

However, Covington Mayor Sherry Carran criticized the bill's passage, citing the benefits of her city's statute.

"Our Human Rights Ordinance has been a real positive for Covington and has led to our city being more inclusive and welcoming, both positive attributes," she said in a statement. "Allowing discrimination by a business or a government office because they do not endorse a person¹s way of life or agree with a person¹s beliefs is harmful. It's harmful to the individual being discriminated against and harmful to the larger community as a whole."

Democrats currently hold a 53-47 majority in the state House.

[h/t Joe My God]