FRANKFORT — Kentucky House Democrats voted Monday night to override a gubernatorial veto of controversial legislation known as the "religious freedom" bill.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, declined to give a final tally for the vote to override Gov. Steve Beshear's veto of House Bill 279. The vote was taken behind closed doors in the House Democratic caucus late Monday. It was not clear if the full House was going to vote on the bill Tuesday, and then send it to the Senate.
It takes 51 votes to override a gubernatorial veto. House Bill 279 passed the Democratic-controlled House 82-7 earlier this session. Monday was the 29th day of the 30-day session.
Stumbo said the discussion was heated.
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Beshear vetoed the measure on Friday, saying that while he values religious freedom, the bill went too far. Earlier in this legislative session, the religious freedom bill passed overwhelmingly in the Democratic House and Republican Senate. House Bill 279 would allow someone with "sincerely held" religious beliefs to disregard state laws and regulations.
Beshear said he vetoed the bill on Friday because it was too vague and could result in costly lawsuits for state and county governments.
More than 50 organizations had opposed the bill, arguing that it could lead to more discrimination and could overrule ordinances in Lexington, Louisville, Covington and Vicco that protect gay, lesbian and transgender people from discrimination.
But backers of the bill said that in 16 other states with similar religious freedom laws, there have been few if any lawsuits.
Beshear met behind closed doors with the House Democrats earlier Monday. He said he explained to them why he ultimately decided to veto the bill.
"I don't have any idea on what action they might take," Beshear said. "I obviously don't want them to override my veto, because I think I made the right decision."
The Republican-controlled Senate has already said that it has the votes to override the veto if the House Democrats opt to vote for an override.
Several other issues remained unresolved as lawmakers headed toward the end of the legislative session.
Legislators have yet to take action on bills including one to allow members of the military to vote overseas by email. Another proposal awaiting approval would allow a Christians-only health care plan to operate in Kentucky.