News (USA)

Kansas tea party group renews push for anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill

Kansas tea party group renews push for anti-gay ‘religious freedom’ bill

WICHITA, Kan. — A Wichita, Kan.-based tea party group has launched an email campaign urging its members to pepper state lawmakers with messages in support of a bill that allows service refusal to same-sex couples on religious grounds.

Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.
Kansas Statehouse in Topeka.

Craig Gabel, leader of Kansans for Liberty, sent a message addressed to “conservative activists” asking them to contact senators who are refusing to allow a vote on a house bill dubbed the Kansas Religious Freedom Act, reported The Wichita Eagle.

The bill easily passed the House but was put on hold in the Senate after a nationwide outcry over what critics called state sanctioning of discrimination against gay people.

Supporters of the measure argue that it protects freedom of religion by allowing people to deny service if providing it “would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender.”

One of the sample letters activists are asked to email to senators asserts that the bill also protects the freedom of LGBT people by allowing those who own businesses to deny service to individuals who don’t share their beliefs.

“If an LGBT couple owned a meeting space would any of us like to force them to rent it for an anti-gay rally and wedding?” the sample letter says. “Should an African American and his LGBT partner be forced to lease his space or services for a KKK wedding?”

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Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, a gay-rights group, said it’s “false, start to finish” to assert the House bill does anything to protect gay rights.

“The sophistry is breathtaking,” he said. “There’s only one target in this bill and it is gay couples.”

The only people who would benefit from the legislation are anti-gay individuals who would gain legal protection if they defy their employers and refuse to serve gay couples, he said.

A similar measure was passed in the Arizona state legislature last week and is awaiting the governor’s signature, while bills in South Dakota, Idaho, Maine and Tennessee were defeated or withdrawn.

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