From The Wichita Eagle:
The Kansas House will move forward with a bill that would give government employees the right to refuse service to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious beliefs.
…The bill was drafted in reaction to federal court rulings overturning same-sex marriage bans in other states, said Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, the committee’s chairman.
…If the bill becomes law, public and private employees alike could refuse service to same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs concerning marriage. Because religion is a protected status, the employer could not terminate the employee for this refusal. The law would also shield private businesses from discrimination lawsuits.
A provision requires government agencies to still provide the requested service, but individual clerks could object to signing a marriage license, for example. Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, introduced an amendment, which passed, that would exempt private businesses from the same legal obligation.
We’ll admit, we got excited while reading this story because we thought Rep. Couture-Lovelady would obviously be on our side. Alas, he is not. He’s one of the bad guys. What a waste of a great name.
This proposal was meant to prevent private businesses from being forced to serve customers when they don’t want to do so, i.e., a baker who makes wedding cakes wouldn’t be forced to make a wedding cake for a same-gender wedding ceremony. Yes, the Kansas government debated the legal and moral implications of wedding cake. Why is everyone obsessed with wedding cake?
Then it morphed into “protecting” government employees from being forced to do things that go against their religious beliefs. Although as a public employee publicly serving the public, with public money paying your public salary, that ALWAYS has been, is, and will be a component of the job. Imagine if the clerks at the DMV wouldn’t have to serve people they don’t like. They don’t like anybody. But we’ll let that go for now.
There is this pesky document called the U.S. Constitution, which spells out the framework for the way our country runs. Article VI, referred to as The Supremacy Clause, states “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.“ In other words, if states have laws that go against federal laws, the federal laws always win. Too bad, Kansas.
There’s also the 14th Amendment, which says no state will make a law to “…deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.”
Seriously, people, this is from middle school civics class. Of course this law won’t last. Nevertheless, Kansas lawmakers are grandstanding for their own benefit to show their constituents how hard they tried to fight against “gay marriage” (we really need to stop using that phrase, it’s just marriage!) in the hopes that they’ll get elected again. That, and wasting what could be millions of dollars in legal fees when The Great State of Kansas is dragged through the courts, fighting this nonsense.
Supporters of the law cite religious freedom, which is also part of The Constitution, and say a person shouldn’t be forced to perform actions that are against his/her beliefs. There are laws where this religious freedom prevails. For instance, if doctors and nurses are asked to perform an abortion for a pregnant woman, but they object to abortion based on moral grounds, then they often have the right to not perform the procedure.
However, if a county clerk needs to sign a document, and s/he is the only person in that office who can sign the document, but s/he refuses to do so, then that screws up the legal process. We can’t have that. Although the differences lie in a gray area. Hence the legal drama.
If enacted, and it probably will be, this law will wind through the courts for a long time until it is eventually struck down. Although in the meantime, it will undoubtedly cause drama for Kansas citizens who are denied public services. And cake. They will be denied cake!