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Archive for Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Kansas House gives first-round approval to ‘religious freedom’ measure that critics say encourages discrimination against gays

February 11, 2014, 11:49 a.m. Updated February 11, 2014, 6:32 p.m.

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With a 72-42 vote Tuesday, Kansas House members gave first-round approval to a bill that aims to protect the rights of individuals, religious groups and businesses to refuse services or goods for gay weddings based on religious beliefs.

“It’s just a protective measure to ensure the religious liberties we already have will stay in place the same no matter what happens in the future,” said State Rep. Charles Macheers, R-Overland Park, referring to the possibility that Kansas’s constitutional amendment banning gay marriage could be overturned.

Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said many businesses in Kansas are unaware of potential threats to their religious freedoms.

“If the Kansas marriage amendment is ever struck down by the courts, all sorts of possibilities never contemplated by most small business owners could suddenly present themselves,” Schuttloffel said.

But Rep. Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, said the bill offered anything but protection.

“If this is a protection bill, it should be protecting all people’s rights,” Ballard said. “But I’m sure some are not feeling very protected. They’re feeling singled-out and discriminated against.”

Ballard plans to vote against the bill when the House takes final action on it Wednesday, but not because she doesn’t support religious freedom.

“I support religious freedom because I get to choose my religion,” Ballard said. “I do not, however, support selectively discriminating against persons in the name of religious freedom.”

In Lawrence, many business owners said that, if passed, the bill would have no effect on their work.

“Personally, I don’t think that one’s beliefs have anything to do with making a cake,” said Desiree Lopez, owner of BellaRoca Cakes. “As a business, we try not to get into anyone’s personal business.”

Some Lawrence business owners were dumbfounded by the bill.

“Honestly it doesn’t make much sense to me,” said Kristin Spacek, owner of Owens Flower Shop. “I don’t know that it would affect our business, really; we don’t discriminate against somebody because of a religious belief.”

But Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican, said small business owners have told her they’re concerned that they’d be unable to enforce their own policies.

“They are stakeholders and have an interest in this particular piece of legislation,” she said.

The scope of the bill extends beyond businesses. Additionally, HB2453 bans civil claims of discrimination against groups citing religious preference and prohibits government from forcing religious groups to perform or recognize a marriage or civil union. The implications of this concern opponents of the bill.

“This is not about wedding cakes,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition. “This is about this body saying we are going to ignore what the Supreme Court says and we are going to put that in our statute books.”

Witt expects the U.S. Supreme Court at some point to rule all state bans on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Witt said HB2453 could potentially result in county clerks denying marriage licenses to couples, or police officers turning down a case based on their religious beliefs.

In the fiscal note attached to the bill, interim director of budget Jon Hummell writes that the attorney general expects HB2453, if passed, would face federal court challenges. Court costs to fight challenges to the bill are estimated between $50,000 and $275,000.

For Douglas County resident Jen Humphrey, who in December married Jessica Pierson legally in Iowa, the bill’s success is disappointing.

“It’s incredibly disheartening to see the state I call home – where I work, where I farm, where I live with my spouse – pursue these actions going against what is happening across the country,” Humphrey said. “While you have some states saying they are not going to litigate gay marriage, you have Kansas going in the other direction.”

Though the bill will likely pass the House, Humphrey said she and Pierson have been lucky enough to experience support from her friends, family and neighbors, which she said is crucial to a healthy relationship.

“I believe strongly that marriages last longer when they are supported by the community,” Humphrey said. “Jessica and I enjoy that support and I hope one day it is a marriage that is legally recognized in Kansas.”

Backers of the bill, meanwhile, said the state needs to act quickly. Federal judges in Oklahoma and Utah recently struck down those states’ gay-marriage bans, and they’re covered by the same federal appeals court circuit as Kansas.

“It’s substantially likely that within a year or so, court action will be taken that will change the definition of marriage in the state of Kansas,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican who opposes gay marriage.

Backers haven’t cited cases in Kansas of threatened lawsuits or government sanctions over someone’s refusal to provide goods or services to same-sex couples.

But a state agency in Oregon and a Colorado administrative law judge recently found that bakers refusing to make wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies had discriminated against the couples, though neither state recognizes gay marriages. Cases in other states have involved refusals to provide flowers or take photos.

Kansas’ anti-discrimination laws don’t cover bias based on sexual orientation or gender identification. But Schuttloffel, with the Kansas Catholic Conference, said if a court strikes down the state’s gay-marriage ban, “the legal landscape dramatically changes.”

“The whole point of this is to provide some clarity,” he said.

— The Associated Press and Journal-World correspondent Elise Reuter contributed to this story.

Comments

Richard Heckler 2 months ago

The Opposite of ALEC is People For The American Way = Gov't By The People YES! Issues - http://www.pfaw.org/issues

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Betty Bartholomew 2 months ago

Wow.

With the Jewish/neo-Nazi and AfAm/KKK analogies, you're totally flipping this argument around. A more correct analogy would be, "So then you would be ok with LGBT businesses discriminating against (religious group of choice here)?"

Because in the examples cited, the Jewish and AfAm people have a history of being oppressed, discriminated against, abused, and murdered by the applicable neo-Nazi/KKK people. Just as LGBT people have a history of being oppressed, discriminated against, abused, and murdered by ...well, just about any other group of people religious or not, though most of those doing the oppressing, discriminating, abusing, and murdering wind up citing some sort of religious purview.

And I will step up and say yes, I am totally ok with a group who is oppressed, discriminated against, abused, and murdered then refusing to do business with those who have oppressed, discriminated against, abused, and murdered them.

I am not ok with those doing the oppressing trying to get away with continuing the oppression by citing their religion and getting their religious views signed into law in a country where that is not supposed to happen.

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Bob Reinsch 2 months ago

Replace every reference to "same-sex" or "homosexual" in the bill, with "race" and see how it sounds. If it walks like a bigot, and sounds like a bigot...

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Paul R Getto 2 months ago

Can a business refuse to serve members of the Kansas Legislature because they institutionalize discrimination?

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Richard Heckler 2 months ago

ALEC at this point represents the state of kansas legislature. Numbers and such will be "cooked" accordingly which in essence is a fraud being perpetrated on Kansas taxpayers and voters.

The Washington D.C. delegation also receives their "agenda" and talking points by way of ALEC.

ALEC has a new partner named Aegis Strategic The firm, named Aegis Strategic, is run by a former top executive at Charles and David Koch's flagship advocacy group, Americans for Prosperity, and it was founded with the blessing of the brothers' political advisers, three Republican operatives tell Mother Jones.

The consulting firm plans to handpick local, state, and federal candidates who share the Kochs' free-market, limited-government agenda, and groom them to win elections. "We seek out electable advocates of the freedom and opportunity agenda who will be forceful at both the policy and political levels," the company notes on its website.

(((( There is nothing about ALEC that supports "limited government" in fact quite the contrary)))

Aegis says it can manage every aspect of a campaign, including advertising, direct mail, social media, and fundraising.

The consulting firm Aegis Strategic plans to handpick local, state, and federal candidates who share the Kochs' politics.

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/01/koch-brothers-candidate-training-recruiting-aegis-strategic

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 2 months ago

The First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution says that Congress shall make no law respcting the establishement or religion or regarding the parctice thereof.

This Kansas law is a flagrant violation of the First Amendment. It allows religious zealots the same rights to religious bigots that the Jim Crow laws used to give to racial bigots in the past. All religion is fantasy and imagination. It sould not be used as a tool of discrimination against any group of citizens.

The country is moving rapidly to remove the stigmas and laws against gay people, and Kansas iwill be dragged kicking and screaming (from the Koch Regime Kansas Government) into the new era. Until then, backwards states like Kansas will be making numerous attempts to stop this movement. I hope that I see such flagrant violations of civil rights squashed in my lifetime.

0

John Graham 2 months ago

The KS turnpike authority states clearly in their job listings that they will not hire anyone who smokes or is married to anyone who smokes. How is this not discrimination? So the government allows discrimination among the members of Congress and that is OK. The state of KS practices hiring discrimination against people who smoke or are married to a smoker and that is OK. But a private business should not have the right to determine who they want as customers. Seems like the federal and state governments practice discrimination when they choose to but don't want anyone else to be able to do so.

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John Graham 2 months ago

The Congressional Black Caucus does not allow white members. Cohen, a white congressman from a district that is primarily African-American applied for membership and was denied because he is white. Congressman Clay from MO stated unless he could change his skin color he was not welcome. So Congress that allows a racist organization to exist within its membership believes a private business should have no say in who that business takes as a customer.

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Brock Masters 2 months ago

To those that believe there should be no discrimination I ask, should a black baker be forced to cater a KKK rally? Or should a Jewish baker be forced to bake cakes for a neo-nazi event celebrating Hiltler's birthday?

The government must serve blindly, individuals do not. Individuals can discriminate. Some we will say is good discrimination as in the above examples and others we will say is bad, but it is all discrimination. Good or bad depends on where you're standing. It is subjective.

3

Ted Morehouse 2 months ago

At some level everyone has preferences on who they do business with, to deny them their preference is stripping them of their liberty. Some liberty should be stripped so that our society does not become too stratified (e.g EO), but there has to be a limit on how much freedom we demand from people. Unlike law involving racial prejudice, gay prejudice is not based on color, but on behavior. Some people see it as unacceptable behavior, and it is immoral to force them to act as if it was acceptable.

3

Thomas Bryce 2 months ago

"Court costs to fight challenges to the Bill are estimated between $50,000 and $275,000." Great! Just another "Jobs Bill" for Lawyers. More Taxpayer money to defend Ideology. What about the Jobs, Governor Brownback? What About the Economy of the State of Kansas, Governor Brownback? The Election IS Coming.

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Thomas Bryce 2 months ago

Interesting! The Story for these comments does not appear to be available any Longer. "Page Not Found" is all that shows up when you click on the title of the story. Oh Well. Must have hit a nerve.

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James Howlette 2 months ago

So this would be like making it explicitly legal to discriminate against mixed race couples before Loving v Virginia? I wonder how history would have viewed that particular move...

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Brock Masters 2 months ago

To discriminate or not to discriminate is a moral issue. Don't want the government deciding how to live your life, who you can love or marry? Of if you can have an abortion? Great then realize that government shouldn't be forcing people to do business with those they choose not to do business with.

It is a moral decision and if you want to have government legislate morality then you have to accept it in all forms and not selectively when you agree with it.

3

Clark Coan 2 months ago

Whatever happened to the Equal Protection Clause of the US Constitution?

2

Addie Line 2 months ago

Yes, just what we need. A law giving people who want to discriminate against others protection. That's just what they need, to be able to discriminate freely and without fear. Funny how religion is used as a reason for so much hate, like that's going to make it acceptable because your interpretation of the bible says so.

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