Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback on Friday unveiled a list of 51 state measures that he says are unreasonable to keep on the books.
But one of those escaping the ax of the Office of Repealer is the state law that makes gay sex a crime even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that laws that criminalize gay and lesbian relationships violate the equal protection provisions of the U.S. Constitution.
Thomas Witt, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition, which advocates for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights, pushed for repeal of the law and said he was angered by Brownback's decision.
"There is nothing more unreasonable than Sam Brownback’s preserving an unconstitutional law that’s used by government officials to harass gay and lesbian Kansans," Witt said.
"The U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that being gay or lesbian is not a crime, and Brownback’s announcement today is an act of gross disrespect to the Constitution, and to the thousands of gay and lesbian Kansans singled out by this unjust law," he said.
When taking office in 2011, Brownback created the Office of Repealer to get rid of laws that were unreasonable, unduly burdensome, duplicative, onerous or in conflict.
Secretary of Administration Dennis Taylor conducted 26 meetings in 24 cities and received 506 suggestions, including the recommendation from the Kansas Equality Commission.
Asked why the law banning gay sex wasn't recommended for repeal, Taylor said he did not want to comment on why individual laws didn't make the cut. He said those that didn't will continue to be reviewed for possible repeal in the future.
The state law dealing with gay sex was essentially nullified by a 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 has argued there is a danger in having the law remain on the books because unscrupulous authorities could use it to harass gays. He pointed to a 2008 news story in Garden City that quoted a law official there saying that homosexuality is a crime in Kansas.
Of the 51 statutes that will now go to various legislative committees for possible repeal, many are outdated or superseded by federal law, Taylor said.
One on the list would repeal a law from the early 1900s that outlines a process to reinstate a sheriff who is fired for allowing a person in custody to be lynched.