Topeka When Gov. Sam Brownback last year issued his first executive order, which created the Office of the Repealer, he said he wanted to get rid of laws that were unreasonable, unduly burdensome, duplicative, onerous or in conflict.
Such laws, Brownback said, “are detrimental to the economic well-being of Kansas; hinder the growth of liberty and opportunities for Kansans and Kansas businesses; and defy a common-sense approach to governance. … ”
The Kansas Equality Coalition, a group that advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, wants to hold Brownback to his word.
Under Kansas law, homosexual sex is a criminal offense. But a 2003 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court says that laws that criminalize gay and lesbian relationships violate the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
“We believe that the current statute, while ultimately unenforceable, is an affront to thousands of law-abiding gay and lesbian Kansans,” said Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition.
For months, state repealer Dennis Taylor, who also serves as secretary of the Kansas Department of Administration, has been gathering input on laws to repeal. He is nearing completion of preparing a report for Brownback.
Neither he nor Brownback is saying yet what laws they think should be repealed, but whichever way the administration goes, the repeal initiative is bound to create fireworks.
Taylor said he has received input on repealing more than 400 laws. Some, he said, deal with controversial social issues such as the sodomy statute and recently approved legislation like the ban on smoking in indoor, public places.
“What is the intent with those controversial ones?” asked Rep. Carl Holmes, R-Liberal, and chairman of the House-Senate Committee on Rules and Regulations.
Taylor said he will make a report to Brownback, and the governor will decide which ones “he wants to carry forward.” Any repeal of a state law would have to be approved by the Legislature first.
The state law dealing with gay sex was essentially nullified by the 2003 Supreme Court decision, and some legislators have argued there is no reason to remove the Kansas law from the books because the statute isn’t being enforced.
When the court ruled, then-Attorney General Phill Kline issued a statement, saying, “The decision announced by the Supreme Court of the United States today renders Kansas adult homosexual sodomy law unenforceable and unconstitutional. Accordingly, we are providing notice to counties and district attorneys and other law enforcement officials of the nature of the Supreme Court decision and its effect on this little-used Kansas law.”
But Witt said there was a danger in having the law remain.
“This law technically criminalizes our relationships and leaves us open to harassment by unscrupulous authorities who may still make arrests under the provisions of this statute,” he said.
Brownback, a Republican, and the Kansas Equality Coalition have been at odds. Brownback has been an adamant opponent of gay marriage and was criticized by the coalition this summer for attending a prayer rally in Houston that was put on by several groups that oppose homosexuality. Brownback said he went to pray because the country was in difficult times.