The Kansas state House of Representatives has passed a bill that would allow virtually anyone in Kansas, including business owners, employees and government workers, to refuse to provide services to LGBT individuals on the grounds of “religious liberty.”
In an argument that gives new meaning to the word Orwellian, the bill’s sponsor, Charles Macheers (R.-As If You Had To Ask), insists that the bill actually 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.”
The bill, which passed 72-49, would essentially allow anyone to provide any type of wedding-related service to gays and lesbians using the excuse of their religious belief. Even more troublesome, the bill allows individual government workers who object to marriage equality to refuse to provide services on the same grounds, although the services must still be available. Of course, in rural counties, the individual workers who object may be the only government representatives around.
“Every single rural county in this state has same-sex couples,” said Thomas Witt, a spokesman for Equality Kansas. “Government officials in those counties are going to be able to turn them away from services that they deserve as taxpayers.”
In a laughable attempt to prove that the bill is even-handed, supporters said that the measure would also protect LGBT people who have a “sincerely held” religious objection to heterosexual marriages. One representative, Mark Kahrs, cited the hypothetical example of a lesbian photographer who could refuse a job at a Catholic wedding because of the Church’s position on marriage equality. Of course, that wouldn’t be covered under the bill, because the objection isn’t to heterosexual marriage per se, but that didn’t stop Kahrs from trying.
A few Republicans broke with the party to reject the measure. Among them was Rep. Barbara Bollier. “I do not believe it is ever on the right side of history to be allowed to discriminate against people,” she told her colleagues. “Enough said.”