Views from Kansas: Shady characters in the Statehouse
Editor’s Note: Views from Kansas is a regular feature that highlights editorials and other viewpoints from across the state.
Know who shouldn’t write bills in the Kansas Legislature? Small-minded fanatics.
Now that the disturbing origin of several anti-gay, anti-porn bills introduced in the Kansas Legislature has been exposed, it’s time to demand common-sense practices from elected officials:
Do your research.
Know who’s trying to influence you and why.
And don’t be a puppet for widely discredited, small-minded fanatics.
Recent reports have shown that Rep. Randy Garber, a Sabetha Republican, appears to be acting as a legislative mouthpiece for anti-gay extremist Chris Sevier, introducing several bills copied from Sevier’s model legislation.
Sevier, a 40-something zealot who has tried to marry his laptop and has sued Apple Inc. for a porn addiction that he said ruined his marriage, has been rebuffed in at least a dozen states. On Thursday, officials in the Missouri Capitol deemed him a “security concern” after several representatives reported uncomfortable meetings with him.
But unfortunately — embarrassingly — he found a friend in Topeka.
Garber, who met with Sevier in December, is chief sponsor of a series of bills filed in the Kansas House last week, including one that would declare same-sex marriages “parody marriages,” and another that would mandate an anti-porn filter on all new phones and computers sold in the state.
The bills have other co-sponsors as well, including Wichita-area lawmakers Rep. Cheryl Helmer, a Mulvane Republican, and Rep. Steve Huebert, a Valley Center Republican.
Garber said the “one guy” who lobbied him on the anti-gay bills “came to me and I said, ‘Yeah, sounds like a good bill to me. I’ll definitely introduce it,'” Garber told The Wichita Eagle.
The Kansas lawmaker said he was unaware of Sevier’s dubious history, including the fact that he can no longer practice law in Tennessee after the court declared him “incapacitated . . . by reason of mental infirmity or illness.”
But no matter, Garber said: “I try not to judge people on what’s happened in their past.”
In previous years, Garber’s series of anti-gay proposals could have been introduced without a named sponsor. Thankfully, Kansas lawmakers recently agreed to end the longstanding practice of anonymous bills, which kept the public from knowing who is behind a proposal.
But that obviously hasn’t stopped questionable bills from happening.
It’s bad enough that the bigoted, ridiculous bills were added to the Legislature’s agenda at a time when lawmakers have serious issues to resolve, such as school funding, child welfare, taxes and Medicaid. We hope lawmakers roundly reject them and move on.
It’s more troubling that some elected officials, so focused on their quest to discount same-sex marriage or LGBTQ rights, seem fine acting as a mouthpiece for shady characters.
Legislators should be careful where they get their information — and their inspiration.
— Originally published in The Wichita Eagle