Kansas lawmakers hope to revive anti‑gay religious freedom bill

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

TOPEKA, Kan. — A number of Kansas state lawmakers are hoping to revive a religious freedom bill that would allow public and private employees to refuse to serve same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

The measure passed in the state House earlier this year, but died in the Senate after lawmakers were flooded with angry phone calls and e-mails, reports the Wichita Eagle.

Some supporters of the bill want to revisit the issue now that a federal court has struck down the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and same-sex couples have begun to wed across the state. It’s unclear how similar this session’s bill would be to the original one and who would introduce it.

Proponents say the bill is needed to protect the rights of religious Kansans who object to same-sex marriage.

“This is an ongoing conversation. We’re working on the best way to protect Kansan’s first amendment rights,” says Rep. Steve Brunk of Wichita.

But LGBT rights advocates say allowing a business to turn away gay and lesbian couples is no different than the discrimination faced by African-Americans during the segregation era.

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Thomas Witt, Executive Director of Equality Kansas, a statewide LGBT advocacy group, says the legislature was right to strike the bill down before coming law.

“Should businesses that do business with the public have to serve everybody? Yes,” said Witt. “That’s a principle of American society. You are open for business, then you’re open for business to everybody. And you don’t get to choose what classes of people you’re not going to serve.”

It remains unclear if the bill would differ from last year’s version, or who would introduce it.

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