TOPEKA, Kan. – – Republican Gov. Sam Brownback said Thursday that he’s considering proposing a new religious objections law for Kansas following the U.S. Supreme Court’s legalization of gay marriage, and he defended his administration’s cautious response to the ruling.
Same-sex couples can obtain marriage licenses in all 105 Kansas counties, but the state is not allowing gay and lesbian spouses to change their names on driver’s licenses, nor has it said whether couples can file joint income tax returns. The state has not extended coverage to gay spouses under its health insurance plan for government workers.
Brownback has been a strong supporter of the state’s gay marriage ban, which was reinforced in 2005 by an amendment to the Kansas Constitution overwhelmingly approved by voters. In February, he rescinded an executive order issued in 2007 by then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius to protect gays and lesbians from discrimination in state hiring and employment decisions, saying legislators should approve such a policy.
The conservative governor said the state will move “as expeditiously as we can” to make changes, but he didn’t have a timetable.
“You have to understand and get the mechanisms in place,” he told reporters. “We’ve had meetings with the attorney general, with the relevant Cabinet agencies. We want to make sure to do this right.”
Asked whether he’d outline a proposal for legislators next year, Brownback said, “We’re looking at that.” Lawmakers are out of session for the year.
“We want to make sure that people’s religious liberties are protected,” he said.
Article continues belowArkansas and Indiana enacted religious objections laws this year but were forced to change them because of a national backlash, including business groups. In Louisiana, Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal, a GOP presidential candidate, issued an executive order in May to protect opponents of gay marriage after his state’s lawmakers refused to enact a religious objections law, and his action is being challenged in court.
The Republican-dominated Kansas Legislature considered a religious objections law last year but didn’t pass it, with Brownback, a conservative Catholic, said little during that debate.
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s office released figures Thursday showing that lawsuits involving the state’s gay marriage ban have cost taxpayers nearly $100,000 over the past 18 months.