The Kansas House of Representatives Wednesday passed by a 72-49 vote House Bill 2453, the short title of which is “Protecting religious freedom regarding marriage.” It now goes to the state Senate.
In general, the bill would prohibit government sanctions or anti-discrimination lawsuits against individuals, groups and businesses over faith-based refusals to recognize marriages, civil unions or domestic partnerships or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to couples. Or, it would prevent lawsuits against someone who refuses, for religious reasons, to provide services to gay and lesbians.
Supporters say that the bill will protect the rights of Kansans’ to adhere to their religious beliefs even if federal courts strike down the state constitution’s ban on same-sex unions. They contend the measure is akin to protections for churches, religious groups and others in states where lawmakers have legalized gay marriage.
Critics contend the measure would encourage widespread discrimination against gays.
It is difficult to imagine this narrow-minded, short-sighted, stupid piece of legislation would not bring about this end, despite claims from supporters that this outcome is far-fetched.
They say the bill is narrowly tailored to protect florists and bakers who don’t want to supply flowers or cakes for gay weddings, or churches that want to refuse the use of their sanctuaries to gay couples.
It is funny (strange, not ha, ha) that the same conservatives who hold government intrusion into our lives in such disdain are willing to waste valuable legislative energy on something like this.
Set aside the possible ethical and moral issues. Set aside the fact such legislation will not survive court challenges and only make Kansas look backward.
We have serious issues facing this state – school funding, taxation and the drain of young talent to name a few.
Yet, our elected officials deem it necessary, in the name of promoting religious freedom, to piddle around with this.
Kansas has a strong tradition of tolerance. We are a mixture of immigrants from many nations, all thrown together in this melting pot. The epic anti-segregation battle Brown vs. the Topeka Board of Education was fought here.
Yet, we are willing to toss aside this heritage. Why now? Why is this important?
Fortunately, Kansas Senate president Susan Wagle said Friday the bill will not pass in her chamber as it is currently written. She said it goes beyond protecting religious freedom and raised concerns about discrimination.
Perhaps common sense will prevail.