His state is one of the poorest in the nation, but Rep. Rick Nelson thinks LGBT people are Kentucky’s most pressing problem. The Middlesboro Democrat introduced an antigay “license to discriminate” bill and an anti-transgender “bathroom bill” on the Kentucky General Assembly’s first working day of 2017.
Nelson’s House Bill 105 is a typical “religious freedom” bill, according to Louisville's Courier-Journal. It says no law or court order shall supersede “a person’s right of conscience” to stand by religious beliefs, which ostensibly opens up discrimination against LGBT patrons from conservative business owners. Meanwhile, House Bill 106 would require bathrooms in public schools, state universities, and government buildings to “only be used by persons based on their biological sex.”
Nelson, a proud Baptist, represents a slice of southeastern Kentucky and has served in the assembly since 2001. Ironically, Kentucky’s Republican governor, Matt Bevin, and GOP House Speaker Jeff Hoover are not interested in anti-LGBT legislation, instead hoping to focus on bringing jobs to poverty-stricken Kentucky.
Only last month, Bevin said “bathroom bills” are unnecessary since they address a nonexistent problem. While Republican leadership appears opposed to anti-LGBT bills, it’s not clear if the rest of the legislature — controlled by Republicans — will fall in line.
"The effect of passing this type of discriminatory legislation is clear. It will cost the state millions of dollars," Chris Hartman, director of Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign, said in a statement. "If Kentucky lawmakers want to remain focused on improving our commonwealth's economy, this is exactly the legislation they should avoid. Furthermore, if Kentucky fans hope to host NCAA College Basketball championship games in the future, they must speak out against HB 105 and HB 106."