John M. Becker

Kansas 'Right to Discriminate' Bill Advances

Filed By John M. Becker | February 06, 2014 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Politics
Tags: anti-discrimination law, Christianists, GOP, Kansas, privilege, religious exemption, Republican Party, special rights, theocracy

Kansas mapLast month we learned about Kansas House Bill 2453, which would allow both people and private businesses to deny a long list of services -- including accommodations, facilities, foster care, counseling, adoption, employment, benefits, gooods, and "privileges" -- to married (or marrying) LGBT couples. Under the proposed bill, all the person or business would have to say is that serving these couples violates their "sincerely held religious beliefs."

The Republican-sponsored bill would essentially create a special "right" for individuals and businesses in Kansas to refuse to serve LGBT people as long as they claimed Jesus told them to.

Well, that bill passed out of committee today, meaning it will now go before the full House for a vote. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports:

The Federal and State Affairs Committee's action comes amid an uncertain legal climate for states like Kansas that ban same-sex marriage. Federal judges recently struck down bans in Oklahoma and Utah.

Kansas law already protects employees from being sanctioned based on religious beliefs, but supporters of House Bill 2453 said more legislation is necessary to protect religious freedom.

The bill says governmental entities cannot require individuals, businesses or religious groups to provide services, facilities, goods or employment benefits related to any marriage or domestic partnership. It also prohibits anti-discrimination lawsuits on such grounds.

Critics say the measure promotes discrimination against gays and lesbians and encourages government officials to ignore court rulings favoring gay marriage.

Tom Witt, who runs the Kansas Equality Coalition, rightly pointed out that since the state's nondiscrimination laws already exclude sexual orientation and gender identity, the measure really only has one purpose.

"This isn't about wedding cakes, this isn't about flowers, this is about giving government employees the right to not do their jobs," Witt said. "That is the reason for this bill, beginning to end. None of the rest of this means anything... Private businesses are still free and will continue to be free to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples."

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