- Associated Press - Wednesday, February 17, 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - An anti-discrimination bill likely will not get a vote in the state legislature this year, with its Democratic sponsor criticizing Republicans and conservative Democrats for blocking the legislation designed to protect gay and transgendered people from losing their jobs and their homes.

“The Republicans are just a bunch of homophobes, basically,” said Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville. “Probably they are all afraid somebody might think they are gay.”

Kentucky was one of the first Southern states to pass a civil rights law in 1966 that prohibited discrimination in housing and employment based on someone’s race. Marzian’s bill would update that law to include someone’s sexual orientation and gender identity. Eight Kentucky cities have passed similar laws, including Vicco, a tiny coal mining town in the Appalachian mountains.

But efforts for a statewide law have failed. The House Judiciary Committee held a public hearing on the bill Wednesday, but Marzian did not ask for a vote because she was afraid it would fail.

“I don’t want to bring a bill forward and get defeated because I don’t think that helps us or moves us in a positive direction,” Marzian said.

Republican state Rep. Stan Lee of Lexington called Marzian’s comments “silly.” He said Kentucky is a “Christian conservative state,” and said he did not foresee the state legislature voting on the bill.

“As a born-again Christian, I believe the Bible, and I know what the Bible says about that conduct,” Lee said. “For me and my faith, I can’t condone it.”

Democrats, not Republicans, control the House chamber. Democratic Speaker Greg Stumbo said the bill does not have support among his caucus. He said he had not thought about the bill enough to offer an opinion, although he said as an attorney he has “dedicated my personal and private live to keeping a level playing field for people.”

LGBT advocates have turned their focus to passing a statewide anti-discrimination law after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. Their efforts intensified after Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis refused to issue marriage licenses to same sex couples, a decision that sent her to jail for five days for violating a federal court order.

Wednesday, more than 100 people rallied in the state Capitol to support the bill, including Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

But the legislature seems a long way from supporting the bill. Last summer, 106 of the legislature’s 138 members filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking it to uphold the state’s gay marriage ban. Thursday, the state Senate is scheduled to vote on a bill that would remove the names of county clerks from marriage license forms. It would also create two marriage licenses, one designed for gay couples and another designed for straight couples.

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