Lawmaker Says Proposal Holds No Hidden Agenda
Louisville Courier-Journal, Tuesday, April 16,
525 W. Broadway, Louisville, KY 40202
(Fax 502-582-4075, print run 238,500)
By Mark R. Chellgren, Associated Press
FRANKFORT, Ky.- The idea - establishing a right to privacy in the
Kentucky Constitution--seems straightforward enough.
But it wasn't long after Rep. Joe Clarke proposed that very thing on the opening day of
the General Assembly session this year that the questions started.
" 'Why are you doing this?' " Clarke said he was asked. Abortion opponents
wondered if it was aimed at them. Another group of legislators--who are looking for ways
to overturn court rulings that consensual sodomy cannot be outlawed--thought maybe the
idea was aimed at that issue.
"They see it as some kind of hidden agenda," said Clarke, a Danville Democrat
who has been a member of the House since 1970. He was chairman of the Appropriations and
Reveue Committee for 20 years and was speaker of the House for one term.
He has moved back into the shadows in the General Assembly since his ouster as speaker
Though he's now off center stage, Clarke remains one of the legislature's most
And so when he said there was no hidden agenda to his proposal, most people believed
him. But some conspiracy buffs won't buy it.
The Kentucky Supreme Court, for example, said that an implied right to privacy in the
Kentucky Constitution meant that a law outlawing consensual sodomy was unconstitutional.
Since then, some have pushed for a constitutional amendment that would let the legislature
Clarke said it is not his intent to take up that issue, although he added, "I
personally believe acts between consenting adults are nobody else's business."
The first section of the Kentucky Constitution contains what amounts to a Bill of
Rights. It guarantees Kentuckians, in broad language, such things as the right to defend
their lives and liberties, the right to worship God, the right to freely communicate their
thoughts and opinions, and the right to assemble.
To those rights, Clarke would add another: "The right to individual privacy is
recognized and shall not be infringed upon without the showing of a compelling private or
But questions persist.
Clarke said his motivation was two-fold. More than a decade ago, a committee was
created to review Kentucky's 1891 constitution. It put together a list of recommendatiosn
for changes, most of which have been ignored. Among the recommendations was the right to
"The word 'privacy' does not appear in the constitution," Clarke said.
"There are court cases that say there is a right to privacy. It is not very
"I've been concerned about modern communications--everybody knowing everything
about everybody else," Clarke said.
A debate about privacy is unlikely any time soon, however. In this session, the General
Assembly is more interested in constitutional amendments that would make it easier for
legislators to draw themselves new district boundaries, that would eliminate racist and
segregationist language from the document, and that would resolve a property-tax issue.
"I think it's an important issue," Clarke said of privacy. "I don't
think it has much of a chance this time."
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