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Archive for Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Debate over religious beliefs, gay rights will continue

February 19, 2014

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Demonstrators gather on the south steps of the Kansas Statehouse for a group photo by organizers in protest to House bill 2453, a measure approved by the House that would have allowed people to cite religious beliefs in denying services to same-sex couples. The demonstration, which drew several hundred members was organized by the Topeka non-profit group Planting Peace.

Demonstrators gather on the south steps of the Kansas Statehouse for a group photo by organizers in protest to House bill 2453, a measure approved by the House that would have allowed people to cite religious beliefs in denying services to same-sex couples. The demonstration, which drew several hundred members was organized by the Topeka non-profit group Planting Peace.

— Some legislators say they want the issue to go away, but it won’t.

Last week, the Kansas Legislature was the object of political scorn across the state and nation after the House approved a bill that critics said would allow Jim Crow-like discrimination against gays and lesbians.

While nearly all Democrats opposed the bill, the deathblow came from Senate Republican leaders — conservatives who oppose same-sex marriage but who heard from a howling business community that said the bill would have been a legal nightmare for employers.

Now even some House members who voted for the bill are backtracking.

But even though House Bill 2453 has been buried, the conflict between gay rights and the religious beliefs of some will rise again as early as next month.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King, R-Independence, said his committee will hold hearings to examine laws passed in recent years in Kansas regarding religious liberty and talk with legal experts to see if there are any “holes in those protections.”

“We just have to make sure when we dig in our heels to fight for religious liberty that we do so for all Kansans and that we do so in a way that makes sure we don’t discriminate against any Kansans,” King said.

It has become an almost annual battle in Kansas spurred by nearly every legal twist and turn on the national and state levels.

In 2005, the Legislature put on the ballot a constitutional amendment that recognized only marriage between a man and woman. Kansas voters favored it by 70 percent.

In 2012, the Brownback administration pushed for passage of what was called the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which would have prohibited government from substantially burdening a person’s exercise of religion unless the government could prove the action furthered a compelling interest.

Specifically, it would have invalidated a Lawrence ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.

While it was approved easily in the House, the measure didn’t gain traction in the Senate.

Last year, the legislation re-emerged, but gay rights advocates said the anti-LGBT language was removed from the bill. The measure was approved by the Legislature and signed into law by Brownback.

Supporters of this year’s HB 2453 said it was needed because of recent federal court actions striking down same-sex marriage bans in several states. One case is being appealed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Kansas.

The American Religious Freedom Program has been working with states to pass bills that it said would set up protections for religious beliefs. The American Religious Freedom Program is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, which describes itself as “Washington, D.C.’s premier institute dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy.”

Brian Walsh, executive director of American Religious Freedom Program, said the bill in Kansas as portrayed by its opponents did not represent his understanding of the bill.

“I don’t know anybody who believes that you should not serve someone because of their sexual orientation,” Walsh said.

State Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, who has authored much of the legislation opposed by gay rights groups over the past several years, insists that the bill would not have allowed discrimination against gays and lesbians.

“This has always been the case in the bill and I’d welcome any amendment that states this even more specifically as arguments to the contrary have confused some regarding the focus of the bill,” he said.

But many others disagreed, including conservatives in the Senate and business owners.

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, has been advocating on behalf of gays and lesbians for a decade.

“This is my tenth year in the Capitol, and I’ve never seen a bill this bad,” Witt said.

A supplemental note to the bill written by the Kansas Legislative Research Department, stated: “If an individual were employed by a governmental entity or non-religious entity, and that individual declined to provide a lawful service otherwise consistent with that entity’s duties or policies, then the employer providing such service, in directing the performance of such service, would be required to promptly provide another employee to provide the service or otherwise ensure the service was provided, if it could be done without undue hardship to the employer.”

The bill also would have required district courts to decide disputes over the law within 60 days with no additional discovery or fact-finding conducted by the court. Witt said such provisions were inappropriate.

“Some people in our Statehouse just harbor an intense dislike of gay and lesbian people and they put that dislike into a bill,” Witt said.

But King, the chairman of Judiciary, said a bill can be written to balance religious beliefs and the rights of gays and lesbians.

“Kansas has a rich and proud history of protecting religious freedom as well as fighting against discrimination in any form,” he said.

Comments

Chuck Anziulewicz 7 months 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 refusing service to a Gay couple who wish to get a wedding cake or celebrate their anniversary in a restaurant?

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Terry Snell Jr. 7 months ago

What if a Neo Nazi wanted dillions to make a Swastika cake. What if Hyvee was asked to make a satanic cake with demons......a devote Christian should not be forced, as a baker, to make a cake that is against there religious beliefs. You cant pick and choose. Gay marriage ban passed with a 70% vote by the people. The people spoke and only ask for respect of there religious beliefs.

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Rick Masters 7 months ago

I thought Neo Nazis shopped at Aldi.

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Seth Peterson 7 months ago

How does one make a Satanic cake? Aren't all cakes basically Satanic in that they already represent gluttony and a hedonism?

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Jim Slade 7 months ago

Just because 70% of the voters want to restrict other people's rights, it doesn't mean it's legal or Constitutional.

You can have your religious beliefs. Don't push those beliefs onto others- keep them to yourselves. Stop denying others what they want or need because of YOUR beliefs.

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Addie Line 7 months ago

I almost feel sorry for these people making desperate attempts to limit other people's rights just because they're uncomfortable with it. Change is coming, folks. You are going to be on the wrong side of history. One day your grandchildren will be exchanging nervous laughter at the dinner table as you spout your antiquated discriminatory views in the name of religion.

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Ted Morehouse 7 months ago

Both of the prior comments are great examples of how bigoted "anti-bigots" can be. This is an societal dilemma based on morals, not race, gender or some other physical attribute, I don't understand why people keep comparing this to racial or gender struggles for equality. . If someone doesn't like someones behavior and doesn't want their business why should they be forced to serve them?

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Norman Dostal 7 months ago

Ted, pretty moronic if you dont get the comparison. Blacks were killed and denied rights for being black, just like gays. Pretty simple. How about comparing it to a choice you can accept? Religion. You choose religion-you must not be discriminated against. Even more simply because youre clearly a bigot-the PUBLIC pays for a private business by paying for sidewalks and roads so they MUST be served. End of story.

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Stuart Evans 7 months ago

it's because people like Ted, think that being gay is a choice. That means that at some point, people like Ted must have had to actually think about whether he liked girls or boys. What'd you choose, Ted?

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Charles Fogarty 7 months ago

Religion and politics are choices, too, and they're protected. Sexual orientation is not a choice. Pretty simple. And, as far as Christianity is concerned, Jesus seemed pretty keen on not judging others and he identified with the least in His society. I bet he still does.

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Ted Morehouse 7 months ago

Some homosexuals choose their orientation for a variety of reasons, and the morality of that choice is not an absolute. People cannot choose to be black or a different sex, so to compare the gay rights movement with race or gender equality does not work. I was playing devils advocate to burst some bubbles, and to illustrate that this is not a simple issue and hopefully some people will be open minded and empathize with why this bill was written.

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Rick Masters 7 months ago

"Some homosexuals choose their orientation for a variety of reasons"

Please elaborate; I'm curious to hear this one.

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Seth Peterson 7 months ago

False. People cannot chose sexual orientation, just as they cannot chose race.

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Dustyn Polk 7 months ago

Given the language that you have used, and the dismissive tone in which the words were assembled, it's a fair assessment to say that you are heterosexual.

What influences and rationalizations did you use to come to the conclusion that you are 'straight' instead of 'gay'?

I already know you won't answer, but mocking people like you is amusing.

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

Soi Ted, you;re okay with a Christian Identity business owner refusing to serve Blacks or mixed groups becuase their religious philosophy teaches them Blacks have no souls and that racial mixing is contrary to their brand of Christianity?

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Ted Morehouse 7 months ago

No, please don't use extremes to make your point, and I could care less about religions, this is about retaining some personal freedom to do business with who you want to. I am okay with someone who is uncomfortable with my behavior not serving me, for example, I have been denied access for wearing inappropriate attire. I respect their freedom and personal space, I will just go somewhere else. I don't believe that I would have the right to sue them for feeling the way they do. I guess our divide is that I believe that there may be choice involved with sexual orientation, and so it becomes a moral issue and not a physical state like gender, disability, or race.

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 months ago

So you yhink yhsy homosexuals CHOOSE their lifestyle?? Who would do that with the presence of morons like you in society?????

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James Howlette 7 months ago

So you're ok with someone refusing to serve interracial couples? Marrying is, after all, a behavior. There are people who still have strong religious objections to racial mixing.

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Ted Morehouse 7 months ago

I am not okay with that, nor am i okay with discrimination based on sex or disability or any other physical attribute. I am arguing that there are human behaviors such as homosexuality that can be argued to be the result of personal choice and are therefore a moral dilemma.

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

. Ted wrote:
"I am arguing that there are human behaviors such as homosexuality that can be argued to be the result of personal choice and are therefore a moral dilemma."

A personal of color is the product of the personal choice of their parents to engage in sexual intercourse. There are some Christians (Christian Identity Movement) who believe that people of color are subhuman and should not enjoy basic civil rights that all of us take for granted. Their belief is based on their selective interpretation of the bible, as well as Nazi ideology. From your perspective, Ted, a person who adheres to the Christian Identity Movement "can argue" that being black is, ultimately, a personal choice made by their parents to procreate, and therefore, when a CI person suggests a law that it should be illegal for non-whites to procreate, a “moral dilemma” is created. ,

Your argument, taken to its logical conclusion, means that any ideology, behavior, belief or practice is acceptable as long as one can "make an argument" (mind you, it doesn't have to be a convincing argument) based on that persons individual moral or religious beliefs.

All individuals are unique and while there is much overlap and similarity, none of us have the same identical moral or religious beliefs. It’s a personal choice. The Bible, or for that matter, any religious text can be interpreted in an infinite number of ways. I doubt that any two Christians have the same exact morality which I suggest is also true for people of other faiths, or for that matter, people with no religious beliefs.

When it comes down to it, Ted, one can morally rationalize anything.

Yes, there is a dilemma. But it’s not a moral dilemma. Instead, it is a dilemma caused by the simple fact that regardless of one's beliefs, no one person or religion can lay claim to a superior morality without resorting to the naked and bold assertion that their religious/moral beliefs are right and the beliefs of everyone who disagrees with them are wrong.

This obviously irreconcilable problem is precisely the rationale for our Constitution, and more specifically, the First Amendment.

Either you support our great country’s Constitution or you don’t. Which side are you on?

.

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James Howlette 7 months ago

Interracial marriage is as much the result of a personal choice as having a same sex relationship. Two people are attracted to each other and have a relationship. Both types of couples have people who will argue that the relationship is immoral due to "strong religious convictions." Bob Jones University didn't get around to officially dropping their ban on interracial dating until it became politically inconvenient for the GWB campaign.

The fact that you'd allow discrimination against one couple and not the other shows that you don't have a coherent or consistent argument here. It also should be a big hint that you're on the wrong side of history on this one.

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Addie Line 7 months ago

Because discrimination in any form is wrong. And sexuality, like race, is not something that can be changed. Unless you're suggesting it can be, in which case I'm curious as to when you "chose" your sexuality.

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Ted Morehouse 7 months ago

Everyone discriminates, every action you make based on prior experience is discriminatory. How much freedom you should have to do this is what the debate revolves around, obviously there is an ideal amount for society to flourish. Sexuality can be changed, I didn't have to choose my sexuality, but I can empathize with someone who experienced sexual abuse being confused about their orientation.

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

:"Sexuality can be changed." Ted, I am assuming that you meant to write "sexual orieintation can be changed." No disrespect intended, but I know of no other way to respond to your statement other than to be absolutey blunt: You have no clue as to what you are talking about.

The near unaminous opinion of the professional psychological and psychiatric community is that sexual orientation is not a choice. It's simply how people are "wired" at birth. The few psychologists and psychiatrists who agree with you are considered "kooks" by their professional peers.

According to the American Psychiatric Association, until 1974 homosexuality was a mental illness In a similar vein, 150 years ago, the majority of Americans believed Black people were subhuman. In early America, many Christians believed in witches, and burned human beings alive based on those "moral" beliefs. .

Ted, this is the 21st Century. Get with the program. Ignorance is no excuse for clinging to primitive and backward beliefs that have long ago been repudiated.

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Ted Morehouse 7 months ago

I wont get with the program, the same professional psychologists you laud as correctly interpreting homosexuality as being "wired" at birth, interpreted it as a disease in the 70's and in the 20's sterilized tens of thousands of people "wired" for crime. Sex is more complex than "wiring". Read the literature about the effects of nurturing and molestation on sexual orientation, its not all hogwash. Over-generalizations and faith in mainstream idea have been the bigoted force behind every atrocity committed this millennium.

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

Ted, apparently you are a little more sophisticated than i gave you credit. i tried to use langauge that a teen would understand. You are right, the causes of homosexuality are very complicated and far from being fully understood. but I can tell you this, there is absolutely no scientific evidence indicating, as you suggest, that homosexuality is a personal choice.

I am straight and I don't understand homosexual attraction, just as gay people probably don't understand hetersexual attraction. However, i do know a lot of gay folks, and other than our diffrent sexual preferences, they seem to be no less human nor no less mentally healthy than I. And given that, I cannot conceive that any of these folks, most of whom are highly intelilgent, talented and well educated, would consciously choose a sexual orientation that subjects them to marginalization, discrimination, acts of violence, and second class citizenship.

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Dustyn Polk 7 months ago

Actually, it was considered a mental illness, not a disease, as you contend. It was also the only mental illness at the time that could be grounds for involuntary incarceration of indeterminate length. That judgment was not available to be challenged by the 'accused', unlike minor mental health issues, like schizophrenia and psychopathy.

The general assessment for treatment included non invasive methods such as EST and chemical castration, which had been outlawed after it came to light that the Nazis considered it one of the best methods of population control and selective breeding available.

More of the chemical castrations were performed on homosexuals under Hilter's regime than it was on the Jewish, gypsy, or otherwise unfit races combined. To cure women of lesbian tendencies, gang rape was commonly employed.

Laws such as this penalize people for absolutely worthwhile purpose, placing upon them the burden and onerous label of being 'undesirable'.

The fault here lies in your misconception that biological urges are nonsensical attempts to wrangle money, which lends credence to the argument that those that write scientific papers stating the opposite are actually serving the future of scientific advancement.

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Phillip Chappuie 7 months ago

The First Amendment (Amendment I) to the United States Constitution prohibits the making of any law respecting an establishment of religion. What is so hard to understand in that statement? Please take your god out of my Statehouse.

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Arnie Bunkers 7 months ago

I agree we should not discriminate. The only question I have is about freedom on choice, and the whole issue of lawsuits. Lets say I am a flower shop owner. Should I be' forced ' to provide flowers for every occasion, even if I dont agree with things like: venue, time, duration, etc? What if I am physically fearful of the event? Whould I be 'forced' to supply flowers for a White supremist event? What if Fred Phepls wanted flowers for the wedding of one of his children? It seems I should be able to choose, with my consequense being that I may get boycotted by the White Supremists or I lose so much business that I go bankrupt. The other issue is lawsuits. How easy would it be for someone whom I chose not to provide flowers because maybe I have had real bad experiences at that event center, to coincidently be Gay. How do I prove that I didnt serve them for other reasons than thier sexuality? Personally, I would not deny them for the sexuality reason. What they do is thier business. I would take the business, but it seems too easy to get sued. I do agree that things like food and shelter should be above reproach, but I just dont think if I was a widget provider that I should be 'forced' to do business with everyone.

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Seth Peterson 7 months ago

Are you currently forced to do these things currently? No.

The bill failed, that means nothing has changed.

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

Arnie, the question you raise has been answered long ago by the Courts. Discimination (or as you call it, "freedom of choice,") is only impermissible if it is based on something other than race, religion, gender, age, natural origin, etc. For example, an employer can refuse to hire someone because they don't like the person, just as long as the dislike is not premised on the color of their skin.

You are raising non-issues.

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Addie Line 7 months ago

If your religion has to oppress the rights of others, that's a problem.

According to scripture, one who divorces their wife and marries another has commited adultery. So the Christian baker should also be finding out if they're baking for a first marriage? What about if the indivuals entering the marriage are virgins? Or is that part of the scripture not relevant now since it's inconvient to many Christian's lives? People love to cite religion as their reason for hate. If that was true and you were just blindly following your faith, then you should be equally as outraged at the idea of a baker making a cake for gay couple as a couple on a second marriage.

And Ted, the definition of a bigot: person who is or intolerantly devoted to his or her own opinions and prejudices ; especially : one who regards or treats the members of a group (as a racial or ethnic group) with hatred and intolerance

That's what this law is doing--regarding members of a group with hatred and intolerance. Me not standing for that doesn't make me a bigot.

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Tammy Copp-Barta 7 months ago

Editing note - "religious" is misspelled in the title of this article

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Chris Golledge 7 months ago

People keep mentioning morals, but morals involve choices, and a person's sexual orientation is no more a choice than the color of their skin. Be honest with yourself; did you choose to like boys/girls, or was it just part of you? I've thought there was something special about girls since before I understood what the differences are. I don't know why it would be different for anyone else. Heterosexuals have a natural distaste for homosexual sex, but I suppose the feeling is mutual. We should not judge people for matters over which they have no choice, and which have no impact on us one way or the other.

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Andrew Stahmer 7 months ago

I have NEVER liked the comparison of 'blacks' to 'gays' where civil rights are involved.. REGARDLESS of if you're 'born' gay or not; chances are, people can look at you and have no clue to your sexuality. Blacks have a long, long history of not being able to escape prejudice because all it takes is ONE GLIMPSE for any racist to make their judgment. Is there a point in history where 'gays' were SOLD as something not even human? I have yet to turn on the tv (or even go to youtube) and see 'gays' being sprayed with firehoses or being the target of attack dogs. Please direct me to a reliable source that can document a large number of homosexuals being lynched by groups, not strictly a small number of mentally disturbed bigots. To compare the plight of gays to minorities like blacks is very demeaning to the very savage road blacks have had to travel down to get where they are today. This comparison is one more dismissal to which today's blacks are needlessly exposed.

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Sarah Johnson 7 months ago

I think you're underplaying the level of persecution the LGBT community has faced throughout history. Up to 100,000 suspected homosexuals were incarcerated during the Third Reich, with as many as 15,000 of those incarcerations occurring in concentration camps. Homosexual acts have regularly been punishable by death since the days Leviticus was actually written. And that still goes on today. Some estimate that the Iranian government has executed as many as 4,000 LGBT persons since 2000. Just within the last week, the President of Uganda signed into law a bill that punishes homosexual acts by life in prison. (This is actually an improvement as the original proposed punishment was death.) Have you not heard any of the stories coming out of Russia?

No one is saying that anti-gay bigotry is "worse" than racism. But let's not underplay the amount of persecution LGBT people have faced throughout history and still do face.

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

"I have yet to turn on the tv (or even go to youtube) and see 'gays' being sprayed with firehoses or being the target of attack dogs."

Perhaps you should consider reevaluating your Mid-West provincialism. Just because you didn't watch something on TV, it doesn't mean that it didn't happen.

Google "Stonewall Inn" and educate yourself. If you are not interested in taking the time to educate yourself through the written word, search "Stonewall" on youtube. Almost like watching TV.

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

I know of no hierarchical ranking of bigotry based on the ease of which a bigot's scorn is objectified and manifested. Early Christians had no problem determining who the witches were. Nazis had no problems determining who should have to wear the Star of David. The York City cops had no problems deciding who to beat up at Stonewall in the early sixties. The fact that bigots sometimes have to engage in human thought and/or investigation before determining against whom to direct their hatred does now make that specific form of hate any less despicable. Hate is hate. Bigotry is bigotry. it’s all wrong. The repugnancy of hate is not quantiied on a scale of one to ten.

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Dustyn Polk 7 months ago

Black people weren't locked in mental institutions en masse in this country, under the pretext of mental illness and forced to have electroshock therapy, either.

Oh, and the incarceration for homosexuality couldn't be challenged in a court of law by the one incarcerated, given how most of the laws surrounding it were written.

That is a violation of multiple Amendments...

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Mike Ford 7 months ago

the fourteenth amendment will nullify this lunacy. please tell the elected dimwits in Topeka this.

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Fred Mertz 7 months ago

The legislature went about this the wrong way. Discrimination is wrong. They should have passed a bill banning all discrimination and included hefty penalties for violating it.

The bill should have banned refusing service based on sexual orientation, race, etc. It should have banned all race based scholarships It should have banned all sexual orientation scholarships,events or services. It should have banned businesses from discriminating on gender It should have banned different insurance premiums based on gender. It should have banned dress codes It should have banned age limits for service unless explicitly prohibited by law.

Yes, they should have banned all these discriminatory practices. .

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Bob Forer 7 months ago

Brock, perhaps you skipped civics class. Or perhaps you merely slept through class. Regardless, have news for you. We've had such a law for many, many years. It's called the U.S. Constittution.

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Fred Mertz 7 months ago

Bob, where does the Constitution say individuals can't discriminate. We all discriminate to varying degrees in our life.

And Bob, if the Constitution prohibits the type of discrimination I referenced then why is it not prosecuted? Why are gays allowed to discriminate against straights? Blacks against whites , Asians and Hispanics? Why is Body Botique allowed to discriminate against men?

Finally, Bob, see how I was able to respond without trying to insult you? You don't make yourself smart by questioning my intelligence.

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Seth Peterson 7 months ago

It' is prosecuted when it happens (usually).

Why are gays allowed to discriminate against straights? - They're not.

Blacks against whites, Asians and Hispanics? - They're not.

Why is Body Botique allowed to discriminate against men? - They're not.

I think the problem here is not realizing the difference between the definition of the word discriminate and the knowledge of the intent and actual meaning of discrimination in a legal sense.

It seems a bit like the concept of "Christian persecution" you've misunderstood not always getting your way as discrimination (and by you I mean in general, not you specifically).

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Michael LoBurgio 7 months ago

What's really sad is State Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe wife begs him to come to bed but he is too busy staying up late at night telling gays what they can and can not do in bed!

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Fred Whitehead Jr. 7 months ago

"Congress shall make no law respecting the practice of religion nor the practice thereof."

The First Amendment says it all. But the Koch Regime Kansas Government continues to advocate for laws that specifically are speciffically designed to oppress religious dogma and flubdubbary against gays.

It is unconstitutional and any such stupidity will be struck down by the couts.

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Nancy Hamilton 7 months ago

I read an article online (can't find it anymore or I would link it) that explained the difference between the rights of the individual and the role of the state. The thrust of the argument was that everyone has the right to their own beliefs and religious practices (no matter how nutty they may seem to others), but when an individual calls upon the state for enforcement, the State/Federal government (and its enforcement entities) must uphold the constitution and not act in discriminatory ways.

The logic is that a restaurant owner or employee may actually refuse to serve black people/ biracial couple (or a gay couple) but he/she then cannot call the police to enforce his/her prejudices.

I am not a lawyer (but I have watched a lot of Law & Order on TV), but this seems logical to me. The government can't legislate people's beliefs and prejudices, but it also cannot be forced to enable them.

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Greg Cooper 7 months ago

Hurrah! This is the best explanation I have read, Thanks for it.

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