Kentucky Governor signs law to permit anti-LGBT discrimination in schools

The Governor of Kentucky has signed a law to permit anti-LGBT discrimination in education.

Governor Matt Bevin today confirmed he had signed into law SB 17 – a measure that allows student groups at colleges, universities, and high schools to discriminate against LGBTQ students.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, SB 17 undermines inclusive “all comers” policies at public colleges, universities and high schools, by allowing student organizations to discriminate against LGBT students under the guise of religion.

Many public colleges and universities have long had “all-comers” policies that require student organizations receiving financial and other support from the institution not to discriminate against students based on race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. These policies are important because they allow all members of the student body to participate in students groups and prevent such groups from discriminating against students with state funding.

The new law states: “[Education bodies] should ensure that… no recognized religious or political student organization is hindered or discriminated against in the ordering of its internal affairs, selection of leaders and members, defining of doctrines and principles, and resolving of organizational disputes in the furtherance of its mission, or in its determination that only persons committed to its mission should conduct these activities.”

As well as undermining the rights protections, SB 17 also potentially protects students who espouse homophobic religious viewpoints in school.

The law specifically protects students who “voluntarily express religious or political viewpoints…. in classroom, homework, artwork, and other written and oral assignments” and enshrines students’ right to “distribute religious or political literature in a public school”.

HRC Legal Director Sarah Warbelow said: “Governor Bevin’s shameful decision to sign this discriminatory bill into law jeopardizes non-discrimination policies at public high schools, colleges, and universities.

“No student should fear being excluded from a school club or participating in a school activity because they are LGBTQ.

“While of course private groups should have the freedom to express religious viewpoints, they should not be able to unfairly discriminate with taxpayer funds.”

The bill passed the GOP-dominated Kentucky House in an 81 to 8 vote after passing through the Senate last month.