Opinion: Kansas bill is desperate act

February 23, 2014


“Discrimination,” he said, “is horrible. It’s hurtful. It has no place in civilized society ...”

You would think that statement, delivered recently in the Kansas Legislature, a noble sentiment no right-thinking person could argue with. But we are gathered here today to argue with it.

Because it turns out that when Republican legislator Charles Macheers said “discrimination,” he didn’t mean, well ... discrimination. Macheers sponsored a bill — passed overwhelmingly by the Kansas House but killed last week by the Senate in an attack of common sense — that sought to exempt any business or government employee from providing “any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges” related to any “marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement” if doing so would conflict with the employee’s “sincerely held religious beliefs.”

In other words, if the customer seeking these services, et cetera, were gay.

You see, Macheers’ idea of fighting discrimination is to protect the right of alleged “Christians” to discriminate against gay men and lesbians. Apparently, Jim Crow is alive and well and serving in the Kansas Legislature.

The comparison is not an idle one. Macheers’ babblespeak, his brazen attempt to paint the oppressors as the oppressed, is straight out of the white supremacist playbook of the 1960s, when opponents of the Civil Rights Act bewailed it as an incursion upon their sacred rights — by which they meant their sacred rights to discriminate. Moreover, a state governed by Macheers’ law, a state where you could be denied a haircut, a wedding cake, hotel accommodations or police services based on sexual orientation, would of necessity have to erect the kinds of signs this country has not seen for over two generations:

“We Don’t Serve Homosexuals.”

“Straight Only.”

“No Gays Allowed”

This was a hateful piece of legislation (there are rumblings it may be reintroduced) but there was also something starkly ridiculous about it, some sense of the garage door being locked after the car has been stolen, the fence fixed after the cows have wandered off, some sense of fighting a battle already lost. Consider:

The bulk of the country now supports gay rights.

Most young conservatives now support gay rights.

The federal courts now support gay rights — as seen in a recent string of decisions approving same-sex marriage.

Moreover, as Russia embarrasses itself with an anti-gay prohibition and Uganda appalls the world by imposing Draconian punishments for the crime of existing while homosexual, Americans begin to realize this is great company not to be in.

So extremist bills like this one, promulgated by extremist people like Macheers, carry the unmistakable stink of desperation. One is reminded of how, as late as 1970, with the Civil Rights Movement won and its aims vindicated, the state of Mississippi banned a certain children’s TV show. Seems they could not abide the fact there was integration on Sesame Street.

They didn’t know then — as people like Macheers evidently don’t know now — that history had overtaken them and that they were just dead-enders standing before the onrushing freight train of change, holding up a stop sign. Such people always look spectacularly foolish in hindsight, their fears rendered cartoonish and buffoonish, their proclamations of noble cause silly and self-refuting. They are the last folks to “get it.”

So it is with Macheers, so will it be with the next politician who believes there is anything “moral” in denying people based on sexual orientation, who thinks change can be gainsaid. There’s a word for what happens to people who don’t have sense enough to get off the tracks when the train is coming through.


— Leonard Pitts Jr is a columnist for the Miami Herald.


Paul R Getto 4 years, 3 months ago

The comparison is not an idle one. Macheers’ babblespeak, his brazen attempt to paint the oppressors as the oppressed, is straight out of the white supremacist playbook of the 1960s...

Good point. They are the new White Supremacists, disguised as patriots and religionists.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

Julius is right, but instead of considering this to be an ending, we should look at it as the starting point for an improved future.

And by that I mean this is a good time for introspection. What other prejudices do we have? Do we treat other people differently because we don't like something about them?

Many people are very likely to almost subconsciously discriminate against other ethnic groups, and adherents to religions other than theirs.

The amazing thing about those two groups is that it is very common for them to be very eager to discuss the culture that they came from, or in the case of religion, I can't recall a single case of anyone that didn't want to discuss his religion and where it came from, and why he believed it to be true.

But it is very important to keep either of those discussions very civil and polite, with no argumentative attacks of any kind. The purpose of a discussion like that is for you to learn something, and allow that person to have a talk with someone who is willing to listen.

Would you actually listen? Are you that kind of person?

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 3 months ago

It would be unwise to have that kind of discussion with other employees where you work.

Ron Holzwarth 4 years, 3 months ago

I never had that problem, and I learned a lot about Vietnam from a Vietnamese refugee at work. I also worked with refugees from Iran, and I talked with them a bit at work too. Although they didn't care to discuss Iran very much, so I didn't push the issue. That's part of being "very civil and polite," but maybe you missed that.

And, I worked with a Palestinian, and we discussed his Islamic religion at work. It seems to me that if he had a problem with that he would have said something, considering the fact that he was my supervisor.

But, you could be right. Maybe everyone should follow your advice, and keep in mind that you should never ask about and refuse to discuss anyone's family at all, because their family is a large part of their culture. I have no doubt that you've broken your own rule countless times.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 3 months ago

What if one of their employees was gay and took his vacation time off to get married?

They'd be paying him or her while on vacation getting married.

Would they have the right to fire them? Or refuse to allow them to have vacation, while other employees were allowed to have vacation?

These people are so utterly stupid, it boggles the mind.

MerriAnnie Smith 4 years, 3 months ago

It occurs to me that Macheers and his like should move to Russia. That country is as hate-filled as they are. Surely their god is over there! Not here where homosexuals have legal rights.

Doug Weston 4 years, 3 months ago

Too bad all those "crazies" in Lawrence are bringing negative national attention to Lawrence. Right, Mr. Simons!?

William Enick 4 years, 3 months ago

Good one Doug... wonder what they call them (crazies) in a "Blue State"... Governor? Sure would like to live in a blue state again. This kinda thing is just getting so old and weary.

Abdu Omar 4 years, 3 months ago

When one is a minority in religion, ethnic background, culture or any other way, it is important to remember the concept of being quiet. I don't think it wise for people to shout out "I am Jewish, I am Muslim, I am gay, I am Catholic" in any situation unless it comes up in conversation, simply because that isn't appropriate. Where is personal privacy?

So to answer what Merri Anne Smith asked: " why do we have to announce that we are taking a vacation to get married to a same sex person?" Are we in a society where everyone must know what I do in my private time? If you want to join with the person marrying in a same sex situation, it is not everyone's business. Let there but some semblance of privacy in this world. Not everything we do is to be broadcast to the world and if the gay person knew that by announcing his impending same sex marriage goes against the fabric of his work place, why announce it?

John McCoy 4 years, 3 months ago

"We reserve the right to refuse service to any Kansas legislator." Our faith forbids us to have contact with bigotry, ignorance, hatred, greed, mendacity, etc.

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