Kentucky Legislative Session Comes to a Close; Fails to Pass Anti-LGBT Legislation

On Friday, the legislative session in Kentucky came to a close. While the 2016 session was marked with the defeat of two anti-LGBT bills, legislation adding LGBT-inclusive protections to state law failed to pass.

For months, legislators worked on the so-called “Kim Davis Fix,” which was aimed at revising state laws around marriage license forms in the state. A misguided bill, Senate Bill 5, would have created two separate forms from which couples would choose when applying for a marriage license. One would list a “bride and groom” and the other, intended for same-sex couples, would list "first party and second party."

With the endorsment of Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, the legislature passed SB 216, considered a fix to SB 5. Senate Bill 216 gives marriage license applicants the option of checking "bride," ''groom" or "spouse” and does not include the clerk’s name on the form.

“We’re pleased to see county clerks and legislators on both sides of the aisle agree that any changes made to marriage license forms are carried out in a way that’s uniform and does not single out same-sex couples and treat them differently,” Michael Aldridge , Executive Director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky, told HRC. “This collaboration shows what we already know to be true- we can have marriage equality and freedom of religion. One form for marriage licensing costs less, is more efficient and ensures fair treatment of all Kentuckians no matter who they love.”

Senate Bill 180, an outrageous bill that would have undermined state and local protections against discrimination for a host of minority communities in Kentucky by allowing businesses like photographers, tailors, engravers, or any other businesses that provide custom goods and services to discriminate and refuse service for any reason, is the other anti-LGBT bill that did not pass this session. In addition to putting LGBT people at risk for discrimination, under SB 180, single mothers, interfaith couples and interracial couples would also have been at risk. This bill passed the Kentucky Senate, but the House failed to take it up.

On a positive note, the Kentucky Competitive Workplace Act, legislation that would add employment protections for the LGBT community to the state’s Civil Rights Act, received bipartisan sponsorship in both chambers this session. This year, the bill was backed by the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition, which is made up of over 200 businesses who are committed to LGBT inclusion in the workplace. While the bill failed to pass this session, it received a hearing where testimony in support was provided on the record.

"We're proud of the work Kentuckians have done this year to protect and expand LGBT rights," Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman shared with HRC. "We achieved bi-partisan support on LGBT legislation for the first time in our commonwealth, held a historic hearing on the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Act to prohibit LGBT discrimination, soundly defeated a dangerous 'License to Discriminate' bill, and worked with legislators on both sides of the aisle and our governor to craft a marriage license that treats everyone with dignity and respect."

HRC worked closely throughout the legislative session with our partners at the Fairness Campaign and the ACLU of Kentucky to fight back the anti-LGBT bills in Kentucky. These bills are part of nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills that have been introduced this year across the nation. Even though Kentucky’s state legislature adjourned, more than 80 anti-LGBT bills are still active and several state legislatures are still in session.

Ryan Wilson

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