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A gay dad’s open letter to Kentucky legislators on their religious freedom bill

A gay dad’s open letter to Kentucky legislators on their religious freedom bill

Greg Guelda writes on the religious freedom bill being considered in Kentucky

Last week, a Kentucky Senate committee approved Senate Bill 180, which would allow business owners to refuse to serve LGBT people if they believe that doing so conflicted with their faith. One of those appalled by the bill’s approval is Kentuckian gay dad, Greg Guelda. Here he writes an open letter to Kentucky law makers as the bill passes on to the next stage of consideration.

Dear Representative,

As Senate Bill 180 has recently passed through committee I would like to ask you to amend this bill in a very simple and useful way.

Please spell out in this bill that any business who will be using religious exemptions to serve all citizens of Kentucky be required to register this intent before exercising it and require that these businesses post clearly in their businesses what their religious exemptions cover (or rather who they exclude from service).

This will be useful to everyone in our state and will save all Kentuckians a lot of time and money.

My concern is that the line between basic bigotry and sincerely held religious beliefs is far too blurry. Many ordinary bigots will try to abuse this law as a free pass to simply be hateful and that will undermine the rights SB180 is purported to protect for the deeply religious.

Without designating, in advance, which religions are allowed to exclude specific groups, our court system will quickly become clogged with both fraudulent suits against true believers and legitimate suits against ordinary bigots.

Pre-registering a businesses’ intent and justification for excluding potential patrons could greatly reduce these expensive legal battles and actually provide protection to religious followers who are seeking protection of their beliefs by shielding them from the accusations of being simple minded bigots.

Additionally, requiring each business with a specific and formalized religious exemption to post this clearly in their place of business would prevent any confusion as to who is and who is not welcome.

If a bakery has a registered and validated reason to not bake a cake for a gay wedding, posting this clearly on their door, deliver vehicles and website will steer gay patrons to a friendlier baker thus avoiding both embarrassment for the couple seeking a cake and a lawsuit for the business because their religious exemptions were clearly posted.

Not requiring such posting would only serve to confuse the public and, again, clog our legal system with lawsuits.

This will have a secondary benefit to our citizens. Each of us (as this bill asserts) has a right to clearly follow our personal, sincere, and holy beliefs… if individuals hold such a belief that would prevent them from knowingly having their money support the bigotry, hatred or religious beliefs that counter their own, they could easily avoid patronizing these exempt businesses.

No one would have to compromise their beliefs unknowingly and no one would have to interact with someone who might pose a challenge to their sincere personally held religious beliefs.

One example might be like Kosher labeling, it helps Jews wishing to maintain their proscribed diet easily do so and it in no way affects those of us who aren’t concerned with the religious preparation of our meat.

Or another example: if a business, like my own, supports diversity and is open to any and all patrons we might post this at our door.

People who believe in inclusion will clearly see that their patronage of my business supports their own ideals and we can rest easy in the knowledge that they are welcome BEFORE doing business with me and I can be sure that I’m not unintentionally assisting someone I perceive as a bigot (although even bigots would be welcome as long as they didn’t inflict their personal hatred toward me, my employees or other patrons).

I can see no reason that an individual business owner whose beliefs are both sincere and in threat of being violated would oppose these two requirements. These simple steps will only serve to protect their own position and belief.

I must add, that our citizenry is diverse, we have many deeply religious people of multiple sects, we have a large communities of part-time religious (‘Easter bunnies’ my parents called them because they only let their shadow cross the threshold of church once a year), we have many different racial groups, LGBT citizens, and agnostics as well as atheists.

We have in Kentucky so many great people… it saddens me that many don’t want to get along and show respect for those different from themselves.

Personally I think SB180 should not be passed. I think it’s another step on a slippery slope to division in our population and as evidenced in Indiana and now Georgia it will cost our state a lot of lost revenue.

Despite what many want, our country has been moving toward diversity not away from it, and the growing majority of Americans want to live in a country where everyone is equal and able to live a happy and fulfilled life.

OK, side-note, it is 7am on Saturday morning while I write this and my nine-year-old daughter just came into my room. ‘Daddy, why are you working so early.’

I told her I was writing a letter to our legislature and then explained what our legislature’s job is. I told her about the law that some were trying to pass that would allow some people in our state to exclude serving certain segments of the population because they didn’t think it was right.

Here is a direct quote of my nine-year-old’s response:

‘Daddy, that’s a dumb law. I mean, anyone can think how they want, but it’s not fair to make everybody think like you. Everybody should be happy and not make other people sad by forcing them to think mean things like they do.’

I have never felt more proud of my daughter and I have never felt more successful as a parent than having such clear, fair and honest ideas spring from my child’s lips. Clearly I’m doing the right things at home… I hope you will do the right things in Frankfort.

Sincerely, Greg Guelda, Kentuckian born-and-bred, and proud father of a sweet and loving nine-year-old Kentuckian.