Senate Bill Could Block Interracial, Interfaith Marriages (SB 180)

(Updated. See note at bottom.)

A Kentucky Senate committee has passed a bill that would allow store owners and other providers of services to refuse to serve interracial couples, interracial families, or couples of different faiths. In addition, the bill would prevent the refused couples from seeking redress through the courts.

The Protected

Titled, apparently without any sense of irony, “an act relating to the protection of rights,” SB 180 creates a state-wide group of “protected activities” and “protected activity providers,” then proceeds to cover those so protected with immunity from any laws by any governmental body anywhere, and states that people so covered cannot be fined or charged with any crime.

Who are these persons so protected, and what are the activities so protected? Let’s look at the precise and clear language provided by the bill:

“Protected activities” means actions by people commissioned, employed, hired, retained, or otherwise used by the public or the government to provide customized, artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial, or spiritual goods or services, or judgments, attestations, or other commissions that involve protected rights;
“Protected activity provider” means a person who provides protected activities; and
“Protected rights” means the rights of persons to be free from governmental actions that impair, impede, infringe upon, or otherwise restrict the exercise of any right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the Constitution of Kentucky, including but not limited to a person’s right of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and right to peaceable assembly.

So, if you are hired to provide “customized, artistic, expressive, creative, ministerial, or spiritual goods or services, or judgments, attestations, or other commissions,” then you are protected!

Custom jewelry? Protected. Juggling acts? Protected. Blogging? Protected. (Cool!) Artists and musicians? Good to go.  “Expressive goods or services”? I have no idea what they are, but those are protected too. All ministers, no matter what they say or do? Protected.

Poorly Written, Discriminatory, and Dangerous

What is the point of this, the worst-written bill in the history of legislation? To allow persons to refuse service to anyone, at any time, as long as they can say that the persons requesting the services offend their religious beliefs.

And if you think this is only about some Christians refusing to sell to Teh Gay, guess what – this bill makes possible exactly what we led with: refusing service to interracial, interfaith, atheistic, Muslim, divorced, or pretty much any other kind of people.

Think we’re exaggerating? It took only ten minutes with The Google to find churches in Kentucky who oppose interracial marriage. Think their members would like to be able to refuse service to interracial couples?

How about refusing service to Muslims? Or people who look like Muslims? Or people who just look different, because who knows, they might be Muslims? Or refusing to fill a prescription for an anti-depressant, because my religion teaches there is no such thing as depression? Or refusing to sell a house to an atheist?

This bill is a disaster, both in its language and its intent. And, it is a dangerous bill. I have written a longer piece about this use of “religious freedom” on my personal blog, so I will just quote one section:

In this case, though, the argument is not about one person’s practice of their faith. It is about that person’s understanding of right and wrong causing harm to another person.

And now we come to why this is not only wrong, but dangerous. This use of the “religious freedom” argument is so blatantly illogical and prejudiced that it makes reasonable people just throw up their hands. As it spreads and is not called out by the so-called religious leaders across the country (and indeed is cheered on by some of them), it causes non-religious people to assume that religious people are not only incapable of serious thought, but are actually dangerous to society.

Senators, please pull this bill. It is a bad bill that promotes discrimination, that will damage our state, and in the end will actually be dangerous to the very people you are trying to protect. Kill SB 180.

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Update: I have changed the headline on the story, as I came to agree with others that it was misleading. The Senate did not pass the actual bill (yet); it only passed in committee.

But, the rest of the story stands. This bill is both so broad and so poorly written that it could absolutely lead to the kind of discrimination that I hope the sponsors never intended.

If you believe that this sort of discrimination in the name of so-called religion is wrong, contact your legislators.

42 Comments on "Senate Bill Could Block Interracial, Interfaith Marriages (SB 180)"

  1. Andrew Hankins | 2016-03-03 at 5:01 pm |

    I own Electronic Cigarettes of Kentucky analysis and I don’t care if you think white yellow red purple or black. He’ll I don’t care if your married your dog. All are welcome in my store!!!

  2. Deburgha | 2016-03-03 at 10:16 pm |

    Is this a bad joke?

    • Nope – it’s aimed at gay marriage, but the way it is written allows for these other possibilities. It’s a horrible bill on many levels.

  3. Jon Hardy | 2016-03-04 at 2:05 am |

    This is the same warped view of civil rights espoused by Rand Paul when he first got the nomination for Senator and appeared on Rachel Maddow. It’s the view that I can discriminate and ignore laws that apply to everyone in a civil society, based on some vague notion that it’s contrary to my beliefs. Paul thought that was just fine, that civil rights laws should only restrict the government and that businesses should be free to discriminate against everybody, showing me that Rand Paul knew not the first thing about our civil rights laws or their history or purpose. This type of bill would make it impossible to pass laws that apply to anybody or for a democracy to make any kind of policy and enforce it. Civil rights laws are supposed to protect minorities from discriminatory treatment in employment, housing, or public accommodations, NOT make it easier for bigoted business owners and public officials to treat people differently according to their worst prejudices and wildest fears. Jesus! How can a society even function with lunatic legislators pandering in this manner to the worst elements in our midst? And all in the name of Christianity? Really? Give me a break!

    • Yes, it shows a real lack of understanding of how civil rights work. And the broadness of the bill’s language just adds to the problem.

  4. Kentucky is slowly reverting back to the days of slavery.

    • Brian In Kentucky | 2016-03-07 at 5:17 pm |

      No, I have to disagree. This is the actions of a older generation that just want to hold on the power they have a little longer. Once they are gone the damage they have done will be removed by the new generation that do believe in social & civil liberties for ALL.

      • Um… just what “older generation” does this guy belong to?
        Or this guy?
        They’re both sponsors of the bill. How long do we have to wait for this theoretical new generation that believes in social and civil liberties for all to take over Kentucky?
        I grew up right across the river in Cincinnati. That whole region was full of bigots then and it’s full of bigots now. It hasn’t changed. It only got quiet for a while and is now throwing down because of the major shifts in our society.

      • Judy in Ohio | 2016-03-12 at 5:36 pm |

        Back in the 60s, the older generation were the liberal hippie types. People change when they get older so don’t count on things changing just because older people are dying off.

    • I resent this being laid at the door of age! I see a lot of stupid things being done in this world and it is being done by stupid bigoted people. I see people of every age committing these acts in the name of religion. It is not the age it is the person so don’t add to it by judging people by the gray in our hair or the year we were born.

  5. Michael Wells | 2016-03-04 at 6:08 am |

    Good thing we have the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution and a 14th Amendment. Does the new legislation plan to grind away the “equal justice under the law” inscription on the US Supreme Court building? If not, all this foolishness only need be challenged with a lawsuit and it shall go away. You could then vote out the dummies you have in office who passed this along afterwards, you know for a full cleaning.

    • Agree about the Supremacy Clause. Unfortunately, that requires doing the trip up the courts to prove to them that it’s illegal. I just wish they would realize both how poorly written and how dangerous their legislation truly is.

  6. Cameron Rankine | 2016-03-04 at 2:57 pm |

    If they are pushing this in the name of religious liberty, then they prove in yet another way to the world that their religion isn’t worth following.

  7. Let me guess – Good Jesus affirming Christians passed this bill … one Jesus could never support.

  8. Jeanie Embry | 2016-03-04 at 11:44 pm |

    Can our new AG stop this madness?? This is illegal on so many fronts. I thought the US Constitution trumped State bills like this!!! Women of course aren’t immune from this either, after all some hold ‘religious beliefs’ that take away women’s rights too. Some hold the ‘religious beliefs’ that women are regarded as property.

  9. billy fannin | 2016-03-05 at 4:32 am |

    Its their bussiness an they own it along with the right to refuse service to anyone. This is america. You have the right to be gay, interacial, an a whole host of other things. An i have a right to like or not like it. If i own it its mine an i will refuse or serve whoever i choose.

    • Not according to the various civil rights laws passed 40-some years ago. If you have a public business, you cannot refuse service on the basis of race or sexuality.

    • Chris Rust | 2016-03-07 at 12:44 pm |

      It may be your business Billy but you could not operate without all the support that other people provide through paying taxes for highways, emergency services, education, defence, and the way the community around you creates the economy in which you can trade. So don’t give me that stuff about “it’s my business and I can do what I like”. If you want to trade in the community you should respect the community (the whole community) and the constitution. Be generous and others will be generous back. Hate and you’ll just get hate back.

  10. James R. Cowles | 2016-03-05 at 3:27 pm |

    Wonder how they propose to get past Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that requires impartiality in hotel accommodations, gas stations, restaurants, etc. Churches not performing gay & interfaith weddings would be, I should think, protected by the “free exercise” clause of the 1st Amendment, however.

  11. J. Maynard Thomas | 2016-03-05 at 11:27 pm |

    I can’t express my disappointment! I was born, raised, married and raised a family in this state…disappointed, angry and ashamed!! When you work, hard, to make a difference…then there is this!?!? It’s like someone waved a magic wand and we are in the early 50’s…again.

  12. Too much gray area. Both sides sound lame. Why not keep laws out of this one altogether. If you refuse service, you can challenge a duel and whoever wins the duel wins.

  13. I currently live in Kentucky. I am mixed race and in an interracial marriage.

    If Christianity means that you can force your religion down my throat and deny me service because of who I married, and discriminate against me based off of your faith, then truthfully, yours is not a faith of “love thy neighbor” but a cult of hate.

    I will have no part of this evil society. This is proof positive that the GOP is made of pure evil. Only they would stoop this low and then hide behind the Bible like a child.

  14. The Senator(s) drafting, introducing, or passing this bill through committee need to stop smoking (selling) death sticks and go home to re-think their lives

  15. Ron Williams | 2016-03-06 at 1:50 pm |

    I think this pretty much confirms that the United States is still a VERY, VERY racist Country, with a lot of VERY, VERY racist people. We are NOT a “Post Racial Society” as John Roberts tries to sell us with racist decisions handed down by the Supreme Court. Cliven Bundy takes up arms against the United States and spews his beliefs about “The Negro” all over national TV. The US Congress has obstructed and hindered the PRESIDENT! Dylan Roof, 19 years old, murders 9 black Church Goes in cold blood and the cops take him to Burger King, black man runs from a traffic ticket and is shot 7 times in the back. In Chicago, a police officer with a history of abuse and racial animus shoots an unarmed 17 year old 16 16 times. The Nations Leaders tried to DE-legitimize the President by claiming he wasn’t even a citizen in his own country. And this is just the tip of the Iceberg of Racism and Hatred in the USA. Face Facts America, you are racist to the core.

  16. Melinda Montague | 2016-03-07 at 3:05 am |

    Maybe Kentucky needs to have a wall put around it and then all of the 1% can go live there and not be bothered with the rest of us peasants.

  17. Bill Stewart | 2016-03-07 at 7:08 am |

    Your headline’s wrong. The bill doesn’t block those marriages, it just permits Kentuckians to get away with discriminating against people they don’t approve of, though it’s obviously intended to be about gay marriage by how carefully it avoids saying what it’s really about.

    (And because of that, chances are good a Rastafarian could try selling ganja to another Rastafarian and argue that the state can’t interfere with it because it’s protected by their religion and the state doesn’t have an interest in preventing it that can’t be implemented better.)

  18. Mary Deats | 2016-03-07 at 12:53 pm |

    I guess Kim Davis, the individual who refused to serve marriage certificates to gay couples, will ALSO have to go/leave her job…as so many other ‘right minded’individuals will find her multiple marriages, offensive to their ‘religious’ sensibilities…what is sauce for the goose….this could really backfire on them…as in, major businesses moving out of the state. Can’t wait to see the s**t hit the fan when that happens.

  19. Maggie-I | 2016-03-07 at 1:37 pm |

    Not only is this law stupid, but also dangerous. Best way to wake up these bigoted Legislatures is to hit them in the pocket book. Boycott everything Kentucky. Lets just see how that will work out for them. Bet the Chamber of Commerce will put pressure on these fools if there was a call for a National Boycott of Kentucky. Tourist season is close to starting and what do they manufacture there?

  20. Sad thing is that Kentucky is basically divided with the line being generation gap. The older generation who are really closed minded and believe you either think like them, or you are wrong and going to hell. The other half are nothing like this, they believe in more the “It doesn’t effect me in anyway, so who am I to judge others or push my views on others”. Me personally, I do not see this getting far, if it does then believe it will be gone soon as the older generation fades from the power they hold so dear. Just don’t judge the State based on a few ass clowns that make us all look like we have no common sense.

  21. nocolor | 2016-03-07 at 5:24 pm |

    Kentucky will always be racist. Thankfully I grew up in a family that refused to see color and excepted everyone. My daughter is now getting taught the same lessons. I am white, she is white and her step father is black. She loves him more than her biological father.

  22. Shawn Randall Thomas | 2016-03-07 at 8:15 pm |

    I’m not seeing the problem. If a merchant does not want to do business with you, great, remember that, and never do business with that merchant. It will open the door for those who do want to do buisness with you.As a black man, I personally wish that the vast majority of nonblack businesses would begin refusing to do business with us. Perhaps then we will get our act together and create business, and jobs for ourselves.

    • The problem, refusing service due to race, religion, or sexual orientation is illegal, and has been since the passing of the Civil Rights Act. And, as the article notes, it is dangerous. The persons who wrote it are thinking only of Christians and gay marriage; what will they say when a pharmacist refuses to fill their prescription because they are divorced?

  23. ThisI is absolutely ridiculous. It makes me ashamed to say that I am from Kentucky.

  24. This is absolutely ridiculous. It makes me ashamed to say that I am from Kentucky.

  25. I think Kim Davis should be fired from her $80,000 state job. If she swore to uphold the laws of the state and the Federal government she is not doing her job. Her job is not to pass judgement on the people that pay her ridiculous salary. This whole mess is embarrassing to the state of Kentucky!

  26. Stephen Manion | 2016-03-08 at 5:51 pm |

    Before anyone panics, the headline is pure BS. First the Senate hasn’t done anything, only a committee has passed the thing and secondly even the ridiculously inaccurate article doesn’t say it bans any marriages. The article lists a large group of people the author has subjectively decided would be affected and says the law (which doesn’t now exist) allows another large group of subjectively defined people can deny them services without penalty. What the proposed law actually does is protect from penalty anyone of the protected group who exercises “any right guaranteed by the United States Constitution or the Constitution of Kentucky, including but not limited to a person’s right of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, and right to peaceable assembly.” Now I haven’t read Kentucky’s constitution but I do know that the Constitution of the United States has been held by the supreme court to protect all of the activities the author says will be banned and that it overrides the constitution of any state. If people in the protected group take actions that infringes on someone else’s constitutional rights, and in the perpetrator’ warped bigoted minds they interpret the constitution to allow their actions, and the courts deems that their action did indeed infringe the other’s rights, they will not be protected by the proposed bill. What this bill will do is give the perpetrator a green light until the courts rule against them. That is a big deal, it would, if passed, place an undue burden on people to have to use the courts to be able to exercise their constitutionally as well as specific statute guaranteed rights while allowing the executive branch to pick and choose which laws it feels compelled to enforce. Of course that may open the state, and its counties and municipalities up to massive payments of damages to victims after the courts rule against them and will, undoubtedly, if passed, further embarrass a state that already looks more backwards than it did 40 years ago.

  27. Bill Pavuk | 2016-03-08 at 6:53 pm |

    This is a despicable law. I have to concede that many mainline churches, the Roman Catholic faith for example, refuse to marry just anyone but because it is a sacrament reserve it just for members of the faith. And to be honest, a lot of congregations have been limiting for some time the number of non-member weddings they will officiate mostly out of consideration for the clergy having to handle it all. So it has never really been the case that all churches have to do weddings for anyone who asks it of them. That makes this law all the more insidious and vicious, in my opinion.

  28. Alice Bartley | 2016-03-08 at 7:52 pm |

    Bruce, I understand that there is a way to REPEAL the Governor and replace Bivens. Tell me how it’s done and maybe we can get rid of this type of law making. I hope we can.

  29. This is exactly how senator Ted Cruz feels and thinks. He said if gay people are refused services enough they may change into straight people. He is too stupid to deserve a vote

  30. Doug Carter | 2016-03-12 at 1:37 pm |

    they’ve protected the right of people to deny the rights of others.. great day for segragationists

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