A veteran Kansas state lawmaker is promising to bring back a bill that would discriminate against gay people under the guise of "religious freedom."
The "Protecting religious freedom regarding marriage" bill, also known as the "religious freedom bill," passed in the Kansas House in February by a strong margin, 72-49. It died in the Senate. But now, Rep. Steve Brunk is promising to bring it back and pass it.
"This is an ongoing conversation," Brunk told KWCH. "We're working on the best way to protect Kansan's first amendment rights."
Brunk may change some of the bill's text, but the title alone should make every LGBT person in Kansas, their supporters, and supporters of true religious freedom, concerned.
As it stands now, here's how the bill could impact a same-sex couple:
Say John and Steve are legally married in New York, and John gets a great job at a company in Kansas. The couple decide to move – perhaps John was raised in Kansas – and so they pack their things and head to the Sunflower State. The couple want to rent a hotel, but the manager of the hotel they drive to refuses them a room, claiming his company has sincerely held religious beliefs against same-sex marriage. After searching for another hotel, the couple check in. They go to a restaurant, but are refused service because the waitress sees them holding hands and claims she has sincerely held religious beliefs against same-sex marriage.
The couple need to rent a home, but the real estate broker when the two pull up for an appointment claims he has sincerely held religious beliefs, so the couple are forced to find another agent. Once they do, the company that owns the apartment building says they won't rent to a same-sex couple, because of their sincerely held religious beliefs. Let's not forget that John and Steve have already quit their jobs and packed their belongings. Kansas is starting to look pretty unfriendly.
Perhaps John's employer learns John is married to Steve after John fills out his new-hire paperwork, putting Steve down as his emergency contact, or adding him to his health insurance. John gets fired because the company knew he was gay and could "tolerate" it, but marriage violates the owner's sincerely held religious beliefs.
Perhaps you say, this is an extreme story and could never happen. Perhaps, but even if only one instance did, it would have the effect of the State of Kansas telling a same-sex couple they are not entitled to live with the same assumptions or protections of basic living that different-sex couples assume every day of the year.
As it passed the House, the "Protecting religious freedom regarding marriage" bill allows any "individual or religious entity" to deny services to anyone "if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender."
The definition of a "religious entity" in the bill is broad, so, not just churches or synagogues or mosques, etc., but any "privately-held business operating consistently with its sincerely held religious beliefs."
Think of it as a Hobby Lobby-type bill against same-sex marriage.
Specifically, it states, no governmental entity, or law, could require them to "[p]rovide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement."
It also allows people to refuse to "solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement," or "treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid."
Not only that, but if they sue, the individual or religious entity refusing to provide services gets the cost of their lawsuit, including attorney fees, paid for.
Yes, Kansas is starting to look pretty unfriendly.
As for Rep. Brunk, on his campaign website he states, "I believe government should be limited to core functions and accomplish what the private sector cannot. Our policies should protect individual freedoms, expressions of faith, traditional family values, and promote free markets. A primary function of government is to promote justice while protecting people and property."
It's unclear how this legislation could possibly be said to do that.