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Kan. House panel approves bill allowing discrimination based on religious beliefs

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Updated: 2:30 p.m. CST

TOPEKA, Kan. — An effort to shield individuals, groups and businesses from being forced to participate in same-sex marriages would essentially let government workers discriminate against the couples by citing a religious objection, gay-rights advocates argued Thursday as the measure advanced in the Legislature.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee approved a bill Thursday that braces for the federal courts striking down Kansas’ ban on gay marriage. The legislation would prohibit government sanctions and anti-discrimination lawsuits when religious beliefs are cited for refusing to recognize a marriage or civil union, or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to a couple.

But the bill also extends its protections to individual state and local government employees, allowing them, because of their religious beliefs about marriage, to refuse to provide services in certain circumstances to gays and lesbians. The measure requires agencies to seek a work-around — if it isn’t an “undue hardship.” Critics worry that the language still encourages opting out and have zeroed in on it in trying to block its passage.

“This isn’t about wedding cakes. This isn’t about flowers,” Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state’s leading gay-rights group, said after the committee’s vote. “This is about giving government employees the right to not do their jobs.”

The bill is similar to legislation in South Dakota and was introduced in Kansas last month after federal judges in Oklahoma and Utah recently invalidated those states’ gay-marriage bans. Kansas, Oklahoma and Utah all are part of the same federal appeals court circuit.

The committee’s voice vote sends the measure to the House for debate, possibly as early as next week. Supporters said it recognizes that under the state and federal constitutions, Kansans not only worship as they please but live out their religious beliefs in their public lives.

“We’ve gone from ‘please respect my beliefs and my rights’ to coercing individuals into participating in something that is against their beliefs,” said Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, a conservative Palco Republican. “We’re trying to protect those folks and their religious beliefs.”

Kansas law already prevented the state from recognizing same-sex marriages in 2005, when voters by a 70 percent margin approved an amendment to the state constitution banning such unions.

In addition, the state’s anti-discrimination laws don’t include sexual orientation or gender identity, and critics of the bill argue that businesses and individuals still could deny goods and services to gay couples even if the state’s ban on gay marriage were invalidated.

Supporters of the bill said claims that the bill will allow agencies to discriminate are far-fetched. They said the measure is even-handed, protecting the religious rights of gay-marriage supporters as well. Committee Chairman Steve Brunk, a conservative Wichita Republican, suggested that a business owner would be protected if, for religious reasons, he refused to make signs for anti-gay marriage picketers.

But the bill has the backing of organizations concerned about a growing public acceptance of gay marriage, including the Kansas Catholic Conference and the conservative Kansas Family Policy Council.

And Rep. Allan Rothlisberg, a conservative Grandview Plaza Republican, told fellow committee members, “There are certain things that are moral and certain things that or not.”

During a hearing last week, Rothlisberg, who wears a Christian cross pin with an American flag pattern on his jacket lapel, shook his head as a speaker said science suggests gays and lesbians are born with their sexual orientations.

“It’s not genetics,” he said after Thursday’s committee meeting. “If there were a gay gene, I wouldn’t have said anything.”

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113 more reader comments:

  1. This is truly sickening. Sick and tired of religious privilege. The entire notion of organized religion makes me sick. It is things like this that are the reason I have gone from being simply apathetic to religion to ardently against religion.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:01pm
  2. Arizona and Idaho are already working on this bill the Attorney General in Idaho has given comment that it is most likely unconstitutional and would lead to more lawsuits than it is worth.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:02pm
  3. Let’s discriminate in the name of God. What a philosophy…

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:03pm
  4. So if I invented a religion that preached intollerance to bigotted conservative White heterosexuals that would be ok?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:05pm
  5. Alright Christians. Don’t cry when the Buddhists don’t let you enter their business.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:06pm
  6. Wow…these people are fucking crazy!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:08pm
  7. These people need a dose of their own medicine….

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:08pm
  8. Just another sad day in the history of America. Trying to add discrimination to the state laws or to the constitution is immoral and disgusting. These lawmakers need to be removed from office.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:09pm
  9. The so-called religious are nothing but savages who want to be number one in society and tell everyone how to live and who to be. Frankly, unless you are a white male between the ages of 35-80 or are a fetus, you have no rights and should be a drone. I say to the pit with religion and all their dieties and until everyone starts figuring out humanity needs no religion and that all humans are equal and individual, I will not stop fighting religion and oppression every step of the way. Now I’m going down to the nearby church with a carton of eggs and I won’t be back until I am out of ammo!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:10pm
  10. won’t stand-it is against the law

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:11pm
  11. Another state for us to avoid

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:12pm
  12. All these state legislatures that are trying to get this passed are just confirming that they all know that marriage equality is going to sweep the nation as law… this is there only hope to so called protect their precious bigotry in their Christian right wing beliefs and churches and business. I agree with what a lot of people are saying… revoke their tax exempt status as non profit organizations…
    Equality for all will prevail !!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:12pm
  13. Horrible!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:14pm
  14. discrimination on the basis of Religion is totally UN-”Christian”…..but that doesn’t matter does it…..it is your “Religion” that is important…..not the gospel of Jesus…..that urges us to LOVE !

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:15pm
  15. Religion should be abolished. You gave us freedom in this country but your abusing your own. This isnt the fucking bronze age anymore, religion is nonsense. Just an excuse to hate on a group of people.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:21pm
  16. Discrimination is not a religious right! Discrimination is against what the Bible teaches. Get a clue, people!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:22pm
  17. I am a Christian and this makes me weary….what are they so afraid of? That they might meet someone different and actually like them?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:23pm
  18. this doesnt muster

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:24pm
  19. What happened to non-discrimination??? Let’s stop going backward and head into the future and quit rewriting history and science!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:30pm
  20. Just the thought of religious persecution is abhorrent. Don’t these idiots read history books?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:36pm
  21. I won’t buy anything from any business that displays a fish or a cross (Darwin Fish OK). I will not spend money at any business that gives to anti-gay forces. Turn about is fair play and in our case there is no law against a boycott.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:40pm
  22. I hate Christians.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:40pm
  23. To make it more clear: "I hate phony Christians".

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:46pm
  24. Okay.. So let’s start a new “Religion” call it Against false “God’s” and “It’s people..

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:41pm
  25. Saying you hate Christians makes you no better than them saying they hate gays..

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:42pm
  26. Oh HELL NO !!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:47pm
  27. Then let’s include race, creed and color as well. OH WAIT! That is illegal! So why would this be legal?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 3:49pm
  28. this is getting out of hand !

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:43pm
  29. WOW! Next is race, creed and color! Its a slippery slope!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:44pm
  30. Lawsuits Galore

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:44pm
  31. I think we should ban politicians because what they do is against my religion!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:44pm
  32. Well old Fred Phelps is probably swinging from the rafters!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:45pm
  33. By a rope, I hope...

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:48pm
  34. LOL

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:53pm
  35. AZ is doing the same thing...It's time for THE Supreme Court to Step in and/or Presidential Declaration that ALL People will be Treated Equally Nationwide and if that Upset's you...you go to Court and fight for UnEquality. Enough BS!

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:03pm
  36. What in the heck.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:45pm
  37. That is so very UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:45pm
  38. So, Kansas is no longer part of the US? How is writing a law that promotes religious beliefs over civil rights American? Sounds like Iran. The american taliban is dangerous to freedom.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:45pm
  39. Crazy people

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:46pm
  40. goddamn assholes. sick.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:46pm
  41. And Kansas makes 3 so far… (After Idaho and Arizona). This is pissing me off!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:46pm
  42. muslims are gonna have a field day

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:47pm
  43. Wow anouther state pulling this shit good gods what the ell is going on with america aney more

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:47pm
  44. So which religion is going to have the upper hand?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:47pm
  45. This will be good when it goes to court! What a waste that people think they get to wrap the bigotry in religion…..

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:47pm
  46. Did we all time travel back to the 1700′s?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:47pm
  47. Im greek .and wiccan as well as pashtoon

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:47pm
  48. This says dont move there to me

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:48pm
  49. This is unconstitutional I would think

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:48pm
  50. What the hell!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:48pm
  51. We take one step forward, Kansas takes two steps back.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:49pm
  52. Every one has the right to belive in what thay like .or want to its been a law since 1692

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:49pm
  53. The USA is going backwards if this bill passes. I am having a hard time believing that this is happening.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:49pm
  54. Thay no one religion may have power .privlige .or sway in government seperation of church and state make this so

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:50pm
  55. Coming from Topeka, Kansas it sounds about right.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:50pm
  56. oh good, now God is dragged into being homophobic – which He isn’t

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:51pm
  57. Puto .pusymulakas. To government

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:51pm
  58. I don’t understand this at all. Show me one religion that is widely practiced in the United States that specifically says to limit services provided to someone because their religious doctrine says so? I think some of these people should pay attention to a couple of specific verses: 1 John 4:7-8 and Mark 12:31

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:51pm
  59. Im realy hurt how this government is acting aney more both forigan and domestic .im succeeding from the union if this keeps up

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:53pm
  60. So I’ve been divorced does that mean a devout catholic shop owner can discriminate again me? Or does it specifically pin point sexual preference?i think Kansas might be in for a much larger battle on their hands.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:53pm
  61. I think they mainly want to use it against LGBTQ people.

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:29pm
  62. If supreme court allows this we should rebel.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:55pm
  63. When are goverment abuses its power we the people have a right to ratify and anull it and strip it of power in aney way shape and form

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:55pm
  64. 99% of the time americans prefur to look the outher way instead of dealing with it .

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:56pm
  65. Religion is an idea, a worldview, a philosophy, and ideas, opinions, and value systems do not have rights, only people have rights. To discriminate based on “religious freedom” is not to understand what freedom is for, it is for people, not ideas.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:56pm
  66. No shoes.. no shirt… no gays..
    Pathetic

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:58pm
  67. It’s time to make Equality National and Discrimination a thing of the past….Supreme Court of our Lovely Nation….What on Earth are you waiting for here? Come on!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 4:59pm
  68. I’m not surprised.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:00pm
  69. SCOTUS is going to very busy this year! Unconstutional! Tax the freakin church’s they’ll fall into line when they have to give up their hate money!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:01pm
  70. The first time an atheist refuses service to a Christian, there’s going to be huge outcry.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:02pm
  71. Oh hell no

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:03pm
  72. The sad part is that Kansas is not the only state with this kind of a bill. 2 other states are proposing the same kind of action.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:05pm
  73. So if it passes, does that mean gay people can discriminate against religious people? That street should work both ways, I think!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:05pm
  74. Yes, the street should go both ways.

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:30pm
  75. It shouldn't go either way. There should be no basis for discrimination based on a person's status.

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:47pm
  76. I'm an "eye for an eye" kind of person. PRAISE FUCKING JESUS!!!!!!!

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:48pm
  77. First Idaho, now Kansas. This law will never survive court review.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:06pm
  78. aint religion and politics should be apart from one another?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:06pm
  79. Why do they not understand that it will just be overturned by the courts?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:08pm
  80. This needs to be dealt with at the federal level. Discrimination as no place in society. This is what they are promoting.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:09pm
  81. Another state signs into law in wanting to take sides with Russia. Disgusting! SMH

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:10pm
  82. ha…………..religion wanting to discriminate……………so not Christlike !

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:11pm
  83. Pathetic

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:12pm
  84. So sick of this…. were the hell is our President to step up on these issues….WTH is wrong with the USA…this is pathetic… Supreme Court also….step up and do what this country PAYS you for…out of our taxes…this us pure Bullshit..Nation wide!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:14pm
  85. I guess separation of church and state is all a farce…smh

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:16pm
  86. With all of this going on… I seen American Idol last night and Keith London stood firm for all of us and equality!!! If you haven’t seen it please watch!!! Courage, confidence and fearless at 21. http://tv.yahoo.com/blogs/tv-news/idol-contestant-comes-tv-via-carefully-chosen-beyoncé-060935795.html

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:16pm
  87. Just wrong in so many ways. It will end up in court.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:18pm
  88. WTF is the matter with this country, it’s starting to act like Russia.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:22pm
  89. Idaho is also proposing one of these. A hearing is being held for it already, while Add the Words, Idaho has never gotten a single hearing

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:25pm
  90. It's despicable.

    Replied on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:25pm
  91. Washington approves a bill allowing Kansas to be a toxic waste site. Just like its people.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:26pm
  92. Than now, America is going to have people be dangerous to people and even kids too. America should not allow the Anti shit just to go against gay marriage or other things too

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:29pm
  93. Aren’t these states getting tired of spending all this money losing court cases? This will never stand up…

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:34pm
  94. That is completely stupid. Is gay peoples money not worth the same as straight?? Pretty much going the wrong direction here Gov. :(

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:35pm
  95. So Kansas believes in discrimination, how nice. Florida, you’re next, step up and declare your ignorance to the nation as well. It used to be a ‘religious belief that blacks whites could NOT marry’…different climate now? Are gays the new discrimination factor? On belief through religion? How about the religion that says you can’t go to the doctor or a hospital? Let’s all follow that religion! Or maybe the one where thieves have their hands cut off for stealing, and stoning is the punishment for sex out of marriage…? Just wonder how many of those elected officials would fall to that one? Get real, people this is the 21st century, time to start using your common sense and treat ALL people with equality!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:35pm
  96. wasting money to make this happen is not what the people in Kansas or any other state needs- fighting being in America is a loosing battle- go to court pass go and pay the fines

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:42pm
  97. So very wrong!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:46pm
  98. Does that mean they can discriminate against anyone who is not Christian ?

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:49pm
  99. Welcome to the communist state of Kansas!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 5:56pm
  100. so sad :-(

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:00pm
  101. I do not even know what to say. Shocking…

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:00pm
  102. Unless every business owner has had sex with every gay male or female, How the hell will they know 100% a customer is gay? Plus, if the Christian owners are sleeping around with all gays, they are gay. That Pick-n-Choose religion mixture in politics will come back on the state by lawsuits costing millions.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:07pm
  103. Religion is not a bible based system, religion was concocted up by mere humans and is not promoted by the Bible! Fuck them.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:08pm
  104. It worked here in Kentucky, except it did not specifically name Gays or same sex marriage. It allows individual groups and businesses to discriminate against anyone on the grounds of religious belief! Governor vetoed it and the legislature overrode the veto!
    So now it IS LEGAL for individual groups and businesses to not serve or allow access to anybody if it goes against their religious beliefs! Race, creed, color, faith, ability, sex, but especially sexual orientation, as this was who the law was aimed toward!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:09pm
  105. So I guess the Christians can’t complain if a Jewish or Muslim shopkeeper refuses service? After all ‘freedom’ to practice religious discrimination should be applied to everyone right? Oh wait, they just want to cherry pick.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:11pm
  106. haha waste ur time cause that shit is going to be touted unconstitutional

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:12pm
  107. Somewhere, Judy Garland, over that rainbow!!! Send help the wizard lost brain, heart and nerve.

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:30pm
  108. This crap needs to stop

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:38pm
  109. Kansas, you are an embarrassment!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:38pm
  110. Stupid American Christians, you are so idiot!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:38pm
  111. BOO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:41pm
  112. WTF is wrong with these people…

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:47pm
  113. These people are living in the ice age to think that is constitutional

    Posted on Thursday, February 6, 2014 at 6:49pm