Kentucky's governor just signed a bill that allows discrimination against students. Gov. Matt Bevin signed Senate Bill 17 on Monday, which could allow campus organizations in public schools and public colleges to ban LGBT students for religious reasons, The Hill reported.
Kate Miller, the advocacy director at the ACLU of Kentucky told ATTN: that LGBT and civil rights advocates are worried that SB 17 strips the ability of institutions to enforce policies that protect against discrimination.
"Many of our colleges and universities have put in place really robust diversity polices on our campuses and they have put these policies in place for a reason," she said. "The policies don't allow organizations to receive university support if they engage in discriminatory action, and we're concerned that this law will stand in the way of those protections."
Kentucky's SB 17 claims to protect "the expression of religious or political viewpoints in public schools and public postsecondary institutions." But, as, Stephen Peters, the national press secretary for the Human Rights Campaign, told ATTN:, the First Amendment already protects religious and political expression, and that all students at publicly funded schools should have a equal chance to participate in student organizations.
"No student should fear being excluded from a school club or participating in a school activity because they are LGBTQ," he said, via email. "While private groups have the freedom to express religious viewpoints, they should not be able to unfairly discriminate with taxpayer funds."
Federal law protects some students from sex-based discrimination.
In May of last year, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Department of Justice under President Barack Obama released guidelines for teachers and administrators to protect transgender students and allow them to use the bathroom of their choice.
"No student should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome at school or on a college campus," U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. said the press release. "This guidance further clarifies what we've said repeatedly—that gender identity is protected under Title IX."
However in February, President Donald Trump rescinded those guidelines.
Jenny Pizer, a law and policy director at Lambda Legal, told ATTN: that Title IX protections are also contingent on whether or not the institution in question is religiously affiliated, but that, regardless, SB 17 encourages discriminatory polices.
"This kind of law invites religion-based discrimination and that tends to cause more discrimination for queer students or students perceived to be LGBT, so that is a problem," Pizer said. "Students have legal rights and we are available to enforce them, but the better situation is that institutions stand against discrimination."