Kansas House Green Lights Anti-Gay Bill
Earlier this week, the Kansas House approved a legislation that would allow people to discriminate against the LGBT community based on the individual's religious beliefs, LJWorld.com reported.
Gay rights supporters and politicians, including two representatives from Lawrence, KS, have criticized the bill, called the "Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act". The sixth-largest city in the state has an anti-discrimination ordnance that includes sexual orientation.
"I am very proud of my Lawrence community, and I'm very proud of the ordinance that we passed." State Rep. Barbara Ballard (D-Lawrence) said. "Discrimination is an injustice. It is an injustice to everyone."
House Minority Leader Paul Davis (D-Lawrence) added, "I don't believe it is ever right to discriminate against someone because of their sexual orientation."
House members voted 89-27 in favor of the act, which prevents the government from making individuals to do something against their religious beliefs, the Kansas City Star reported.
Rep. Charlie Roth (R) of Salina, a city in the wheat-producing area of north-central Kansa, also voiced his concerns about the legislation.
"This bill is homophobic and makes Kansas exclusive, not inclusive," Roth before the vote. "This will be a negative economic development tool and sends a message that Kansas is not welcoming but the land of the pure, defined by the few."
"This will have a chilling effect on Salina's ordinance and people who are different who might want to move to our city or state," Roth said after the vote. "I think this bill is not friendly and not welcoming to people who are different."
"This has been a controversial thing in the state, but I don't think we need to add protections for people that are a small part of the population when there have been few complaints, if any," said Rep. Tom Arpke, (R-Salina), who voted in favor of the bill.
Another GOP state representative defended the bill and said it needed to pass to make sure the government couldn't violate Americans' religious beliefs.
"Free exercise of religion is at the core of who we are as a people," Rep. Lance Kinzer (R-Olathe) said.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Kanas & Western Missouri condemned the bill and said that it "fails to protect against government-sponsored religious discrimination."
"The ACLU believes there is a better way to protect religious freedom by providing exemptions for prisoners, historic preservation and land use, and existing civil rights protections in Kansas."
Gay rights activists are also slamming the act and say that if it is passed, gays could be discriminated against in areas of employment, access to public accommodations and housing.
"The whole thing is convincing people into believing that this is something that promotes religious freedom, when it is something that takes away human dignity and civil rights," said Stephanie Mott, Director of the Kansas Equality Coalition.
The bill has been in process since 2009 but in February supporters claimed that the act was needed to "protect people from the Obama administration's 'war on religion,' WE Blog reported.
"As you consider House Bill 2260, the federal government's recent attempts to trample the religious liberties of millions of Americans must be at the forefront of your debate," Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer told lawmakers.
Kansas does not recognize marriage equality or civil unions. Hate crime laws protect victims of hate crimes based on sexual orientation but not gender identity.
Watch a video of gay rights supporters opposing the "Preservation of Religious Freedom" act: