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Kan. House gives initial OK on bill to allow discrimination against gay couples

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Updated: 5:00 p.m. CST

TOPEKA, Kan. — The state’s business climate would suffer if legislators grant special legal protections to Kansas residents, companies and groups that object to gay marriage for religious reasons, critics argued Thursday in a failed attempt to block the plan from advancing.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

The Kansas House gave first-round approval to the so-called “religious freedom” proposal to shield people who don’t want to participate in same-sex weddings should the courts eventually overturn the state’s gay-marriage ban.

The bill would prohibit government sanctions or anti-discrimination lawsuits against Kansans citing religious beliefs about marriage for refusing to recognize a union or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to couples.

After approving the measure 72-42, the House is set to take another, final vote Wednesday, when it’s expected to pass and go to the Senate. Supporters described the bill as a narrowly drawn measure that allow s Kansans to live out their religious beliefs when it comes to marriage.

Critics argue the bill would encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians. They also zeroed in on language extending some legal protections to individual workers and government employees, even if their views and the boss’ conflict.

Rep. Susan Concannon, a Beloit Republican, said small business owners have told her they’re concerned that they’d be unable to enforce their own policies.

“They are stakeholders and have an interest in this particular piece of legislation,” she said.

Rep. John Wilson, a Lawrence Democrat, said enacting the measure will drive away businesses committed to equal treatment for gays, lesbians, bi-sexual and transgender employees.

“We must create a pro-business environment,” he said, adding that non-discrimination policies are routine for large companies.

Business groups didn’t testify on the measure during House committee hearings. The bill says if an individual employee or government worker cites religious views about marriage in refusing to provide a legal service, an employer must find a work-around, if it is not an undue burden.

Supporters of the bill said any scenarios involving widespread discrimination are far-fetched. They also said nothing in the bill prevents a business owner from disciplining an employee for violating company policies.

Meanwhile, backers of the bill said the state needs to act quickly. Federal judges in Oklahoma and Utah recently struck down those states’ gay-marriage bans, and they’re covered by the same federal appeals court circuit as Kansas.

“It’s substantially likely that within a year or so, court action will be taken that will change the definition of marriage in the state of Kansas,” said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican who opposes gay marriage.

Backers haven’t cited cases in Kansas of threatened lawsuits or government sanctions over someone’s refusal to provide goods or services to same-sex couples.

But a state agency in Oregon and a Colorado administrative law judge recently found that bakers refusing to make wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies had discriminated against the couples, though neither state recognizes gay marriages. Cases in other states have involved refusals to provide flowers or take photos.

Kansas’ anti-discrimination laws don’t cover bias based on sexual orientation or gender identification. But Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference, said if a court strikes down the state’s gay-marriage ban, “the legal landscape dramatically changes.”

“The whole point of this is to provide some clarity,” he said.

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74 more reader comments:

  1. quit your backpedaling. you aren’t accomplishing shit

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:54pm
  2. If we allow discrimination in this country then are we the same country?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:54pm
  3. That is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:54pm
  4. Actually it's perfectly constitutional. Sadly. The Federal Civil Rights Act and the ADA say nothing about protecting GLBT individuals from discrimination in public accommodations. Everyone is protected on the basis of age, sex, disability, race and religion. Not sexual orientation. At the state level, and maybe in state constitutions, GLBT may be protected. But as you can see, Kansas is not one of those places.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:16pm
  5. Just because something is legal doesn’t mean it is right.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:55pm
  6. Oh how I love the state I live in…

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:55pm
  7. Wow university of Kansas may not being getting my money!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:57pm
  8. So what happens if a business doesn’t want to serve an interracial couple next?

    Why are some places trying to move backwards???

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 2:58pm
  9. So Kansas is now set on creating laws that will allow discrimination based on religion. I’m curious about the exact wording of this proposed law. Does it specifically state that this applies only to objections regarding “Gays & Lesbians” or is it a blanket religious objection. If it’s a blanket religious objection, this will open up one massive can of worms down the road…. Our founding fathers are probably rolling over in their graves in absolute disgust.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:00pm
  10. Like I said before all the gays in that state with a business will be able to deny them too cause we can just be like oh sorry it’s against my religion to help close minded assholes so go somewhere else ya little shit

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:04pm
  11. Legal discrimination?! Are you serious, Kansas? Just when I think it can’t possibly get any more ridiculous out there, I see stuff like this!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:10pm
  12. Because debating FOR discrimination makes so much sense.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:12pm
  13. Sounds like a slippery slope to me… Who will they vote to discriminate against next? BIGOTS in the name of God!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:12pm
  14. They seem to hate us the most. Look for more of it in the future. We'd do better if we fought back against these people rather than fighting amongst each other (what gays do best). Our community is ripped apart because nobody wants ANYTHING to do with each other.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:37pm
  15. That state is so messed up.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:12pm
  16. They are going to say that every man has to be very tall to marry a woman. And every Woman will think that’s what Jesus said in the Bible book

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:15pm
  17. May God forgive them.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:17pm
  18. So glad I Live in Canada

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:19pm
  19. Ugh some days all I can do is roll my eyes

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:20pm
  20. Why would any gays wanna live in Kansas!? That’s why they have tornadoes so much lets just populate the cool places

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:24pm
  21. i hate the world

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:33pm
  22. Hell, they’re still debating evolution in Kansas, so it’s no surprise they haven’t yet figured out that gay people are also human.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:36pm
  23. i would like to meet the guy that allowed this shit to pass and shove a broom up his ass

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:37pm
  24. BLACK people look out …..YOU could be next!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:44pm
  25. I thought I lived in a country founded on separation of church and state, where will allowing this kind of discrimination lead? I love the USA.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 3:54pm
  26. That’s crazy

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:15pm
  27. Wtf?!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:16pm
  28. Disgusting!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:16pm
  29. FIGHT BACK! Don’t get silently into that dark night! Fight the powers to be! EVERYONE deserves equality!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:16pm
  30. If they have the right to discriminate, they also have the right to pay taxes!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:16pm
  31. Kansas is just trying to fight Obama’s policy of mandatory gay marriage for all citizens.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:17pm
  32. Stupid answer.

    Replied on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:20pm
  33. Until they put it on the books that LGBTQ people are protected Federally, this shit is totally legal. Could you imagine if they could still do this against black people or woman… that wouldn’t be tolerated today. Why? They have federal protections.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:18pm
  34. This is depressing. :/

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:18pm
  35. George Dante: what the hell are you talking about?!!! “Mandatory gay marriage”!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:18pm
  36. Dorothy would be so ashamed

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:20pm
  37. idiots…It won’t pass the smell test in court

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:20pm
  38. Theses people need to be stopped!!!! It is 2014 for crying out loud….not 1950!!!!!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:20pm
  39. Special treatment for religions? Then they can damned well fend for themselves against the IRS!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:20pm
  40. Thank god noone lives in Kansas.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:22pm
  41. Kansas law makers once again showing how hick town Kansas really is. Can we please move into the 21st century Kansas?!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:22pm
  42. It’s Kansas. I am really not surprised by this at all unfortunately.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:22pm
  43. Sad

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:24pm
  44. NOT okay!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:27pm
  45. Ignorance at it’s finest….great job Kansas….

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:27pm
  46. Wtf!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:29pm
  47. Well toto were not going to Kansas anymore.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:29pm
  48. This makes me shake my head wtf is wrong with these people??? Here I am teachin my kids about gay, lesbien, transgender rights etc and discrimination is not acceptable when this is still happening….what are they trying to prove??? How backwoods and ignorant they are???? Helllllllo 2014….grow up already!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:33pm
  49. Christians love to abuse”freedom of religion”.

    I wonder how long until the KKK start using this to expand it to non white non Christian minorities.

    Because oddly the KKK is a hardcore “religious group”

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:34pm
  50. DISLIKE!……

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:35pm
  51. maybe next they can refuse to let specific people use bathrooms based on skin color.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:35pm
  52. That’s fucked up! The congress needs to step up and shut them down.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:36pm
  53. Oh grow up Kansas because discrimination is wrong.and these religious groups and other groups crying and whining because of religion is so screwed up and religion should out of this and It is the LGBTQ people right to go to any business they want just like everyone else because they are Americans too

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:36pm
  54. Like for real? This is insane.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:36pm
  55. Wait till it blows up in their face with non Christians discriminating against Christians on religious grounds, see how fast it is repealed

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:37pm
  56. when churches interfere with politics, they should have to pay taxes! this is the kind of crap we are trying to eliminate, damn bible beaters. its time to do whats right and outlaw religion, since all the cowards do is hide behind it and paraphrase what they want and take things out of context!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:37pm
  57. Wtf?!?!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:37pm
  58. What year is this…and what country are they a part of…???

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:41pm
  59. Can’t wait to see the lawsuits line up if this idiotic thing gets passed. My money’s on it getting struck down in record time. You cannot legislate hate.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:43pm
  60. Can KCK move over to KCMO its a little more civilized over there. Sad, sad day Kansas.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:43pm
  61. So can I refuse Christians as my customers…? I mean not all Christians are bad but I don’t wanna take the chance of one of them coming to my store and start quoting the bible and offending my other customers. ..so ill just put up a sign that say “No Christians Allowed.” I mean Christianity IS a lifestyle choice unlike homosexuality. … just saying.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:44pm
  62. Can’t wait for the new cival rights to start in kansas

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:45pm
  63. Dear Toto, Aren’t you glad we aren’t in Kansas anymore?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:47pm
  64. Why hasn’t the supreme court stepped in & stopped this!!!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:48pm
  65. Disgusting…. Bigotry made legal

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:54pm
  66. We need teams to open catering in each of these states and not pay a dime of taxes to these states. None of these states should get our money

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 7:59pm
  67. No gays should have to pay state taxes to states that don’t give them equal rights. They should put that into law

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:01pm
  68. Take Toto and run, Dorothy.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:01pm
  69. Ok a bill to discriminate..Where do these people get these ideas..Very sad

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:09pm
  70. Not a smart move Kansas…..The gays will open fine establishments and will take your money plus others that dont wanna give it to!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:10pm
  71. This is absolutely horrendous!

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:12pm
  72. Ummm is this Russia!?

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:14pm
  73. This is fucking BULLSHIT.

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:15pm
  74. Good ole Kansas

    Posted on Tuesday, February 11, 2014 at 8:17pm