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Archive for Thursday, February 6, 2014

Kansas House committee approves gay marriage response

February 6, 2014, 10:50 a.m. Updated February 6, 2014, 5:15 p.m.

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— An effort to shield individuals, groups and businesses from being forced to participate in same-sex marriages would essentially let government workers discriminate against the couples by citing a religious objection, gay-rights advocates argued Thursday as the measure advanced in the Legislature.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee approved a bill Thursday that braces for the federal courts striking down Kansas' ban on gay marriage. The legislation would prohibit government sanctions and anti-discrimination lawsuits when religious beliefs are cited for refusing to recognize a marriage or civil union, or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to a couple.

But the bill also extends its protections to individual state and local government employees, allowing them, because of their religious beliefs about marriage, to refuse to provide services in certain circumstances to gays and lesbians. The measure requires agencies to seek a work-around — if it isn't an "undue hardship." Critics worry that the language still encourages opting out and have zeroed in on it in trying to block its passage.

"This isn't about wedding cakes. This isn't about flowers," Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state's leading gay-rights group, said after the committee's vote. "This is about giving government employees the right to not do their jobs."

The bill is similar to legislation in South Dakota and was introduced in Kansas last month after federal judges in Oklahoma and Utah recently invalidated those states' gay-marriage bans. Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah all are part of the same federal appeals court circuit.

The committee's voice vote sends the measure to the House for debate, possibly as early as next week. Supporters said it recognizes that under the state and federal constitutions, Kansans not only worship as they please but live out their religious beliefs in their public lives.

"We've gone from 'please respect my beliefs and my rights' to coercing individuals into participating in something that is against their beliefs," said Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, a conservative Palco Republican. "We're trying to protect those folks and their religious beliefs."

Kansas law already prevented the state from recognizing same-sex marriages in 2005, when voters by a 70 percent margin approved an amendment to the state constitution banning such unions.

In addition, the state's anti-discrimination laws don't include sexual orientation or gender identity, and critics of the bill argue that businesses and individuals still could deny goods and services to gay couples even if the state's ban on gay marriage were invalidated.

Supporters of the bill said claims that the bill will allow agencies to discriminate are far-fetched. They said the measure is even-handed, protecting the religious rights of gay-marriage supporters as well. Committee Chairman Steve Brunk, a conservative Wichita Republican, suggested that a business owner would be protected if, for religious reasons, he refused to make signs for anti-gay marriage picketers.

But the bill has the backing of organizations concerned about a growing public acceptance of gay marriage, including the Kansas Catholic Conference and the conservative Kansas Family Policy Council.

And Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, a conservative Grandview Plaza Republican, told fellow committee members, "There are certain things that are moral and certain things that or not."

Comments

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Kansas will be the last bastion of prejudice and bigotry against gay people. THe hide bound efforts of Kansas politicians to defend their indefensivle stance against these people to obtain political posture will eventually fade and die as reasonable people replace the bigots and idiots that the electorate of Kansas has sent to represent their own prejudice and bogotry and hide in religious flubduberry and fantisy.

Fred Whitehead Jr. 10 months, 3 weeks ago

The First Amendment of the Bill of Rights says that Congress shall make no law respecting the practice of religion. Yet, many of our laws directly reflect the ccorrosive effects of religious practice thatgive the ignorant and crass among us aid and cover.

Randall Uhrich 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Way to go guys. Create a law that is sure to be declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, so Kansas can waste millions fighting the ruling in court. Nationwide, 65% approve equal rights for couples, but Kansas solons want to go against popular attitudes.

Rick Johnson 10 months, 3 weeks ago

This is what happens when you live in the Bible Belt!

Thank god they don't believe in Santa Claus too!

Steve King 10 months, 3 weeks ago

So like at a Movie Theater the Management can reserve the right to refuse service to anyone? I can understand that. I don't understand the State getting involved though. Waste of money. Let the private sector deal with it.

If people want to run a business into the ground that's their option. I mean if a business told me they wouldn't take my picture I'm sure I wouldn't want to work with them anyway. I'd find a different photographer. Phonebook is full of them. Won't fill my prescription? I'll go somewhere that will. And I'll take all my like-kind purchases with me. And I'll tell everyone I know "a bigot lives here" and my friends and their friends will also boycott that business. Guaranteed.

So if you don't want my patronage just tell me. And I'll just tell you to Kiss Off you know.

Thomas Bryce 10 months, 3 weeks ago

I suppose this law works both ways, then. A Gay Business owner can refuse services to a Straight Legislator, male or Female. I thought there was a Clause for Businesses that allow them to refuse service to anyone at any time already . If that is the case, then why is this Law necessary?

Steve King 10 months, 3 weeks ago

Too bad it's really a one way street. I don't imagine are very many LGBT businesses that would turn anyone away. They are too kind. Mostly a Zealots bill.

But I agree, I won't and don't work for bigots. My choice. The other 65% keep me plenty busy.

Christopher Kaberline 10 months, 3 weeks ago

So is this just for gay weddings or gays in general? If its the latter, I know ALOT of Politicians that just became gay in my book that I will not be catering too.

Chuck Anziulewicz 10 months, 2 weeks ago

All the bakeries and photographers and caterers that people think are being so horribly put-upon? They aren’t in the business of providing spiritual guidance or enforcing moral doctrines. They are there to turn a profit. As such, they are obligated to abide by prevailing civil rights laws, whether those laws protect people from discrimination based on race, religion, or sexual orientation.

Should a restaurant owner be able to refuse service to Blacks because he has “moral objections” to race-mixing? Should an employer be able to fire a Muslim employee because he wants to run “a nice Christian workplace”?

If they answer to both question is NO, what justification is there for discriminating against someone who is Gay who wants nothing more than a cake?

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