Advocates for gay rights in Kentucky argue that an extension of the statute protecting religious freedom will be detrimental to LGBTQ+ protections.

KY. (AP)— Wednesday, gay rights groups opposed a Republican-sponsored bill to strengthen Kentucky's religious freedom statute, saying it would weaken community-level “fairness ordinances” protecting LGBTQ+ individuals from discrimination.

The House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 47, although several backers indicated a readiness to make changes before it passes the House. If passed by the House, the measure needs Senate approval. Republican supermajorities in both houses.

The head of the committee, Republican state Representative Daniel Elliott, stated, "I don't think any of us here want to open a floodgate of lawsuits or, for that matter, to invalidate what local cities have done across Kentucky." Elliott is representative from the state of Kentucky.

The primary proponent of the measure, State Representative Steve Rawlings, stated that the goal is to ensure that citizens of Kentucky get a "fair day in court" in the event that the government violates their freedom to practice their religion. He mentioned that the state's religious freedom statute, which was passed over ten years ago, is somewhat brief.

Opponents worried that the bill would spark a litigation tsunami against Kentucky communities and counties had passed fairness ordinances in the preceding 25 years. These regulations ban sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

“There are 24 communities all across our commonwealth that have stood up to protect LGTBQ people and you’re putting every one of them at risk if you pass House Bill 47,” said Fairness Campaign executive director Chris Hartman, a Kentucky LGBTQ+ advocacy group.

Republican state Rep. Jason Nemes said Wednesday lawmakers should maintain religious freedom without “effectively obliterating fairness ordinances.” To alleviate concerns, Rawlings promised to change the bill's text.

Nemes, a bill coauthor, supported his hometown's fairness ordinance. He claimed a Muslim lady who complained she was forced to remove her hijab for her jail booking photo in front of men sparked the proposal. The lady and others were detained at a Louisville immigration rally.

The ultimate goal of this measure, according to Rawlings, is to guarantee that religious liberties are sufficiently safeguarded. To guarantee religious Kentuckians a fair day in court, HB47 mandates that the state's courts utilize the most accommodative wording.

“I do have a strong Christian faith and background,” said Democratic state Rep. Keturah Herron. We must be careful when saying that based on your religious conviction, you can discriminate against individuals. That is not what we should do in this commonwealth or throughout the nation, and this measure says so.”

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