John M. Becker

'Right to Discriminate' Bill Sails Through Kansas House

Filed By John M. Becker | February 12, 2014 4:00 PM | comments

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

whats-the-matter-with-kansas.pngThis afternoon, the Republican-dominated Kansas House of Representatives resoundingly approved House Bill 2453 for the final time by a vote of 72-49.

The measure would allow both people and private businesses in Kansas to deny a long list of services to LGBT people and couples, just as long as the person or business is "operating consistently with its sincerely held 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 needlessly forbids government from compelling an individual or business to solemnize a same-sex union of any kind (despite the fact that there is literally no evidence of this happening anywhere in the United States), and adds that no one shall be forced to "treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid."

As I noted earlier today, Kansas Democrats downplayed the LGBT angle in their opposition to the bill. According to Topeka's WIBW-TV, state LGBT leaders harshly criticized this tactic today:

The leading gay-rights group in Kansas contends the state House's Democratic leader has not taken a strong enough stance against a bill the groups says would sanction discrimination. Equality Kansas State Chairwoman Sandra Meade criticized House Minority Leader Paul Davis of Lawrence even though Davis voted against the bill Wednesday.

In a statement Tuesday, Davis suggested debate on the bill was a distraction from more serious economic and education issues. Meade said it's disappointing that a Democratic leader wouldn't see a call to action to fight discrimination. Davis declined comment Wednesday.

House Bill 2453 now goes to the Kansas Senate, where Republicans outnumber Democrats 32-8.

If you're wondering why we're monitoring these efforts so closely here at Bilerico, it's because we believe these misleading and disingenuous appeals to "religious freedom" and "religious liberty" are part of a major strategic and rhetorical shift on the part of the anti-LGBT right.

The religious right knows that they've ultimately lost the battle against marriage equality -- and LGBT rights more broadly -- so they're switching gears, focusing their efforts on ensuring that homophobia remains an acceptable prejudice in society by carving out so-called "religious liberty" exemptions to marriage equality and non-discrimination laws that are as broad as they can possibly get away with.

It's an effort that the LGBT community and our allies must resist at all costs, because if our opponents are successful, the "equality" we'll be able to achieve will merely be a hollow victory -- "equality" in name only.

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