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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

Nancy Hamilton 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Fred Whitehead Jr. 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Michael LoBurgio 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Brock Masters 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Mike Ford 1 month, 4 weeks ago

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

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Andrew Stahmer 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Chris Golledge 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Tammy Copp-Barta 1 month, 4 weeks ago

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

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Addie Line 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Arnie Bunkers 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Phillip Chappuie 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Addie Line 1 month, 4 weeks 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 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Addie Line 1 month, 4 weeks 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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Chuck Anziulewicz 1 month, 4 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 refusing service to a Gay couple who wish to get a wedding cake or celebrate their anniversary in a restaurant?

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