Some Kentucky politicians are fond of pointing to Indiana as a state from which the commonwealth can learn a lot (other than on the basketball court).
They say we should follow Indiana’s example on implementing the Affordable Care Act through the federal exchange and getting a waiver to create its own version of Medicaid expansion. They suggest Kentucky should adopt Right to Work to compete for jobs going to Indiana, which has a Right to Work law.
But one lesson some don’t seem to want to learn is the lesson of Indiana’s disastrous passage last year of its version of a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. Kentucky does not need to wade into those dangerous waters, yet that’s exactly where the Kentucky Senate headed last week.
Consider that about this time last year, large employers such as Angie’s List said they would cancel expansion plans in Indiana. Organizations, including the NCAA, headquartered in Indianapolis, which was preparing for the Final Four at the time, pledged to pull future events from the state. Some governments banned travel to the state. The CEO of Apple voiced his opposition. The Twitter hashtag “boycottindiana” became popular.
At the urging of Gov. Mike Pence, the GOP-led Indiana legislature modified the law to clarify it can’t be used to undermine local “fairness” laws that prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.
So why did the Republican-controlled Kentucky Senate on Tuesday pass Senate Bill 180? The bill’s language leaves some room for its proponents to argue that it isn’t as sweeping as Indiana’s original law, but that’s hardly clear. It certainly is aimed at negating the civil rights protections for LGBT adopted by eight forward-thinking Kentucky cities — Covington, Danville, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Midway, Morehead and Vicco.
We applaud the six Senate Republicans who joined their Democratic colleagues in voting against SB 180. We fully expect the measure either will not get a vote in the House or will be voted down handily, as it should be.
We’d go a step further and encourage the General Assembly to take up SB 176, rightly pointing the state in the correct direction.
Sen. Julie Raque Adams of Louisville, one of the Republicans voting against SB 180, is also part of a bipartisan group that put forward SB 176, which they’re calling the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Act.
Nearly 200 Kentucky employers in the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition back the bill, including some of the commonwealth’s largest employers as well as numerous small, locally owned companies. By the way, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce has taken a similar stand in the Hoosier state.
SB 176 would add to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act protections against discrimination to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
“We need to show that we have the inclusive and competitive atmosphere where they want to live, where they want to work, and where they want to raise their families,” said Sen. Morgan McGarvey, the Louisville Democrat who led the group sponsoring the bill.
Economic development isn’t the only reason states should be extending protections to the LGBT community. It’s the right thing to do in any case. But if that argument won’t win over some legislators, then let’s use the economic incentive to kill SB 180 and move ahead on SB 176.