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Kan. senate leader: Bill allowing religious discrimination against gays won’t pass

Friday, February 14, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. — The Kansas Senate will not pass a bill in its current form that would prevent lawsuits against someone who refuses, for religious reasons, to provide services to gays and lesbians, the chamber’s president said Friday.

Senate President Susan Wagle said the bill, which was approved Wednesday in the Kansas House, goes beyond protecting religious freedom. She raised concerns about how the measure could impact businesses that would refuse services to gay couples.

Sen. Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), president of the Kansas Senate.

Sen. Susan Wagle (R-Wichita), president of the Kansas Senate.

“I believe the intent of the House was to protect religious liberties. We respect that, but the business implications are going to harm the practice of employment in Kansas,” said Wagle, a Wichita Republican.

The measure would prohibit government sanctions or lawsuits over faith-based refusals to recognize same-sex unions or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to couples.

The House’s passage of the measure prompted strong reactions across the country and from several businesses organizations and employers in Kansas, including AT&T, who issued statements urging legislators to stop the measure or rework it. The businesses said the provisions would hurt them and in some cases place them at odds with their own nondiscrimination policies.

What Wagle said she wants to see emerging from the Senate is a measure that removes the language extending protections to individual state and local government employees, allowing them because of religious beliefs to refuse to provide services, such as fire and police protection, in certain circumstances to gays and lesbians.

“Public service needs to remain public service for the entire public,” she said.

House Speaker Ray Merrick said he has spoken with Wagle about working on new language, and noted the intent of the measure was never to discriminate but to protect religious liberties.

“The system is working,” said Merrick, a Stilwell Republican. “They’re going to make the changes they want.”

Merrick also acknowledged it’d be unlikely the bill could pass the House in its present form if the vote were held again.

Senate leaders said it could be several weeks before a new version of the bill was ready, citing legislative schedules and a desire to take time to iron out all concerns.

Wagle said most Republican senators support traditional marriage and protecting religious freedom.

She also said that there’s a concern the federal 10th Circuit Court of Appeals will overturn the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Recently, federal judges in Virginia, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Utah have ruled those states’ bans unconstitutional.

The executive director of the state’s leading gay rights group welcomed Wagle’s words about the bill’s language.

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said the group sent proposed changes to a House committee before the chamber’s vote that could have addressed some of the current concerns.

“If the Senate chooses to move forward with hearings, we look forward to working with them to draft language that will protect the religious liberties of all Kansans, while at the same time ensuring the dignity of gay and lesbian couples across the state,” Witt said.

The state nondiscrimination law prohibits bias in employment and housing based on race, gender, ethnic origin and religion, but it doesn’t cover sexual orientation or gender identity. Proposals from Witt’s group to change that have failed to come to a vote in the Legislature.

Most Senate Democrats oppose the House bill and think the issue should be left alone this session.

“I think she made the right decision,” said Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, a Topeka Democrat. “I don’t think there is any sense in trying to beat a dead horse on this bill that basically legalizes discrimination.”

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29 more reader comments:

  1. Good!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:36pm
  2. then don’t put it to a vote!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:37pm
  3. It should never have even been brought up.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:38pm
  4. Glad some folks haven’t gone totally ape shit crazy!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:38pm
  5. @ Joel Mickelin your one sick individual. U need help.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:44pm
  6. Was happening to African Americans in the 60s

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:46pm
  7. This “Bill” is just crazy anyway! Let us say we are “Christian” but lets “Discriminate” against a minority group!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:49pm
  8. Wow, can we have a bill to not serve, old, gray haired ladies who dress in ugly purple? After all honey this is the 21st Century….BTW, your glasses offend god, get new ones….are those pierced ears?? whoa….your god gonna be pissed off…oh yea, right, you pick and choose in Kansas what you believe….hateful white racists.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:53pm
  9. good news…………..descrimination is not a humanitarian value !

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:54pm
  10. I say let businesses refuse services for religious purposes, but that means they have to refuse to serve, any one who goes against their beliefs, the Alcoholic,Drug attic, prostitutes, divorced people, people who have remarried, women that are not Virgins, and are not married, or women who have kids and are not married, men also , people who eat pork, or shellfish, people who smoke, men with long hair, men who cut their hair above their temple, people who wear mixed fabrics, or plant more than 1 crop in their field at one time, people who work on sunday……………. put that list up on their door saying they wil not serve any of them or us and fine, so be it. but i bet their business would close with in a month,because every one can fall into that group, then it would solve its self, they wouldn’t have a business

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:55pm
  11. Religions will discriminate, but God will NEVER, any religion that does is not a representative of God, They have been misrepresenting the Divine for millennia, Religions DO NOT OWN GOD.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 2:55pm
  12. I just can’t believe any lawmakers in any state can in any way justify discrimination in any form. And for christians to radify this as being christ like just amazes me. I am a lesbian.. daughter of a Pentecostal minister. I am a gay Christian. I will tell you this… the church is supposed to welcome everyone as God welcomes and loves humanity as a whole. God does not discriminate. .. and if these christians think that this law is protecting their religious freedom… well they have completely lost touch with what it means to be Christians.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:00pm
  13. thank goodness

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:01pm
  14. It scares me that legislature think it’s OK to come up this and legalize HATE…. WTF is this world coming too.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:01pm
  15. Fuck her plain and simple

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:03pm
  16. Me bitch probably don’t get non and nobody wants any of what she’s got

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:03pm
  17. Time to be real! Using religion is still hate!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:07pm
  18. Thank you!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:11pm

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:14pm
  20. Sadly, Kansas has gained a terrible reputation in the past decade. I thought farming states were more pragmatic, but then there’s Indiana!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:17pm
  21. Maybe someone can explain to me how such a law would stand up to scrutiny versus the US Constitution amendments on separation of church and state, and equal protection. I don’t understand how these laws could stand up to such scrutiny.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:19pm
  22. I’m speaking for myself here… but what these Christian bigots don’t understand is this… would I ask to be married in one of their churches… NO. I would want a minister who believes that the marriage commitments my partner and I make to each other are in accordance with our love and devotion to eachother.
    And as far as Christian owned businesses refusing to serve us… posting a sign in their window that says “WE DON’T SERVE GAYS” is very reminiscent of signs we saw in the past that said “WE DONT SERVE BLACKS” that was discrimination and so is this… Its the same thing…

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:20pm
  23. for all we know, god is probably not even real. So how does it feel to spend your entire life hating on a group of people for your imaginary friend who may or may not be there in the end?

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:33pm
  24. She is on our side. Read the article before commenting!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 3:54pm
  25. Discrimination works both ways…that means any LGBTQ business owners in Kansas can refuse to serve Catholics for their beliefs…they’d be starting a war that is pointless & unnecessary…stupid fucks…business is business…their stores would be bringing profits that they need to survive…so who cares who it comes from?

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:00pm
  26. I hope and pray she’s right! It’s a disgrace someone thought this up, and that it passed the House. It’s up to them now to stop the craziness.

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:02pm

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:07pm
  28. Kansas is always in national news for bad things.. like this. So sad to be a Kansan today!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:25pm
  29. Shame on her!

    Posted on Friday, February 14, 2014 at 4:31pm