Remember earlier this month when legislators in Arizona advanced a bill that would create a special "right" for individuals and businesses to refuse to serve LGBT people, as long as they claimed Jesus told them to? Well, similar bills could become law in two more states, if Republican legislators have their way.
In Kansas, House Bill 2453 would allow both people and private businesses to deny a long list of services to LGBT couples, just as long as the person or business is "operating consistently with its sincerely held religious beliefs." (Funny, I wasn't aware that businesses had religious beliefs...)
The list includes "accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges... counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services... [and] employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement."
It also forbids government from compelling an individual or business to solemnize a same-sex union of any kind (despite the fact that there is literally zero evidence of churches or ministers being forced against their will to marry same-sex couples anywhere in the United States), and just to twist the knife, adds that no one shall be forced to "treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid."
The bill has a decent chance of passage, since the Republican Party controls both houses of the Kansas Legislature and notorious homophobe Sam Brownback sits in the governor's mansion.
Sounds bad, right? That's because it is. But believe it or not, South Dakota's bill could be even worse.
Details, after the jump.
The relevant portion of South Dakota's "right to discriminate" bill, Senate Bill 67, reads as follows:
No person or any personal business may be required to provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnization, formation, or celebration of any marriage, or treat any marriage as valid for any purpose if such action would cause any such person or personal business to violate the person's sincerely held religious beliefs.
This bill is even crazier than its Kansas counterpart -- note that nowhere in the text above does it refer specifically to same-sex marriages. It's written so broadly that, if the bill passes with the above language intact, individuals and businesses would be free to discriminate against any marriage they find objectionable (again, as long as they justify that discrimination on religious grounds).
So an innkeeper could refuse to rent a room to an interracial couple, as long as they cloaked their bigotry in the mantle of religion. And a baker could theoretically refuse to bake a cake for an interfaith wedding if, for example, they didn't believe Protestants should marry Catholics.
Disgusting? Oh yeah. And just like the Kansas bill, SB 67 prevents victims and governments from suing bigoted individuals and businesses in civil and criminal court. South Dakota also has a fully Republican legislature and a Republican governor, meaning this disgustingly mean-spirited measure has at least a sporting chance of passage.
Because if you know you're going to lose the marriage equality battle anyway, you might as well lock in as many protections and privileges for religion-based bigotry as possible while you still can, right?
Cartoon by artist Mike Ritter of the GA Voice.