SOGI ordinance ignores religious convictions

January/February 2018
Though Paducah is one of the furthest points west in Kentucky, it’s recent passage of a “Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity” ordinance (a SOGI) will likely find its way into the very center of freedom and religious liberty debates for months to come. What happened there on Jan. 9 was shocking. Kentucky currently has nine local SOGI ordinances. The cities include Covington, Danville, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Midway, Morehead, Paducah, and Vicco. But Paducah became the only Kentucky city to pass one after a Fayette Circuit Judge issued an April 27, 2015 decision holding that Lexington’s SOGI ordinance had been used to violate the religious liberty and free speech rights of a local business owner. A Kentucky Court of Appeals panel affirmed that decision on May 12, 2017. The Kentucky Supreme Court is currently considering the case. Paducah also became the only Kentucky city to pass a SOGI ordinance while the U.S. Supreme Court is also deliberating Masterpiece Cakeshop to decide a similar case in which Colorado sought to force a baker to create a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple in violation of his conscience and religious beliefs. Justice Kennedy, whose vote will likely determine the outcome, expressed frustration during the oral arguments on December 5 He told Colorado’s Solicitor General that “tolerance is essential in a free society. And tolerance is most meaningful when it’s mutual. It seems to me that the state in its position here has been neither tolerant nor respectful of [the baker’s] religious beliefs.” Paducah City Commissioner Richard Abraham attempted to pass a religious exemption amendment for business owners. Several SOGIs without exemptions have already been challenged and are currently before the highest courts of the Commonwealth and nation. After his amendment was rejected, Abraham was the only vote against the SOGI ordinance. He told the Courier-Journal that while discussing the amendment, he “felt like Solomon. But instead of holding up a baby I was holding a Constitution.” The director of a group behind the effort to pass SOGI ordinances throughout Kentucky admitted that religious liberty protections, such as those proposed by Abraham, “really take the teeth out of the ordinance.”
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