Lawmakers in the Kansas House of Representatives have just passed a bill that allows any person or religious institution to refuse service to same-sex couples. The vote on HB 2453 was a whopping 72-49. The Kansas Senate, which has a strong Republican majority, will almost certainly pass the bill, and Kansas’ Republican and virulently homophobic governor, Sam Brownback, will not only sign it, but likely dance for joy when he does.
How big a deal is this?
In short, the bill allows anyone to refuse to provide service to any gay person or same-sex couple.
That “anyone” includes your doctor, a police woman, the fire department, the clerk at the DMV, a grocery store clerk, your local barber or hairdresser, your doorman, the person who comes to check your electric meter, a gas station attendant, your friendly neighborhood banker, stock broker, insurance salesperson, newspaper delivery person, cable repair man, garbage collector, heck — even your boss or co-worker.
The bill (PDF) states that “if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity…no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity 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; solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.” [Note: legal formatting removed for clarity]
So, for example, let’s say a married same-sex couple from California — let’s name them Bob and Jim — are driving to Nebraska, and they take a route through Kansas. Let’s say they stop overnight in a hotel. Let’s even say they’re good planners and made a reservation online a few days before.
It’s late in our hypothetical example, and Bob and Jim pull into the Topeka Travelin’ Motel (which, as far as we know, does not actuality exist.) They park and grab their luggage and walk into the front door. Jim goes up to the clerk and says he has a reservation. The clerk, let’s call him John, says he can’t find it. Jim says, “Honey, is the reservation under your last name or mine?”
John, perhaps a Southern Baptist, feels offended. He remembers that his lawmakers just passed a bill saying he doesn’t have to serve gay people or same-sex couples.
“You folks are a couple? We don’t like your kind here and you can’t stay in this motel.”
If Bob and Jim were Roberta and James, John could be sued. But in Kansas, John is an upstanding citizen exercising his religious right to be a bigot. he can’t be sued, and if Bob and Jim try, John can force them to pay his legal fees.
(By the way, yesterday The New Civil Rights Movement reported on a similar, albeit not quite as far-reaching, bill in Idaho.)
Slate calls the legislation “an abomination… designed to bring anti-gay segregation—under the guise of ‘religious liberty’—to the already deep-red state.”
The Kansas City Star reports that “Rep. Charles Macheers, R-Shawnee, said on the House floor that his bill prevents discrimination.”
“Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill,” he said. “There have been times throughout history where people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs because they were unpopular. This bill provides a shield of protection for that.”
More like a shield of protection to actively hate gay people and spur a mass exodus from the Sunflower State.
Seriously, why would anyone not move out of Kansas right now?
Image via the National Organization For Marriage on Facebook
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