Kansas House passes bill allowing refusal of service to same-sex couples

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By Ben Brumfield and Dana Ford

(CNN) — Denying services to same-sex couples may soon become legal in Kansas.

House Bill 2453 explicitly protects religious individuals, groups and businesses that refuse services to same-sex couples, particularly those looking to tie the knot.

It passed the state’s Republican-dominated House on Wednesday with a vote of 72-49, and has gone to the Senate for a vote.

Such a law may seem unnecessary in a state where same-sex marriage is banned, but some Kansas lawmakers think different.

They want to prevent religious individuals and organizations from getting sued, or otherwise punished, for not providing goods or services to gay couples — or for not recognizing their marriages or committed relationship as valid.

This includes employees of the state.

The politics

The law claims to protect the rights of religious people, but gender rights advocates such as Equality Kansas are dismayed.

“Kansans across the state are rightly appalled that legislators are spending their efforts to pass yet another piece of legislation that seeks to enshrine discrimination against gay and lesbian people into law,” state chairwoman Sandra Meade said.

“HB 2453 is a blatant attempt to maintain second-class citizen status for taxpaying gay and lesbian Kansans.”

Despite the blowback, its chances of passing seem pretty good.

Republicans dominate the state’s Senate and Gov. Sam Brownback is a conservative Christian known for taking a public stand against same-sex marriage.

Brownback has already praised the bill in an interview with a local newspaper.

“Americans have constitutional rights, among them the right to exercise their religious beliefs and the right for every human life to be treated with respect and dignity,” he told The Topeka Capital-Journal.

The details

HB 2453 is titled “An act concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage” and covers many bases.

It reads, in part: “No individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:

“Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement.”

Anyone who turns away a gay couple not only can’t face a civil suit, but if anyone tries to sue, they could get nailed with the other side’s legal fees.

There are some small concession in the bill to gay couples.

If an employee at a nonreligious or government business refuses to serve a gay or lesbian couple for religious reasons, the manager is obligated to find another employee who will oblige.

It also explicitly says that the law does not authorize discrimination against anyone, including clergy, who performs or supports same-sex unions.

The trend

The Kansas bill would seem to buck the trend.

Laws approving same-sex marriage have recently passed in many parts of the United States, bringing the total number of states where it is legal to 17. Add to that the District of Columbia.

Worldwide, 16 other countries (and parts of Mexico) also have laws allowing same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. Most of the nations are in Europe and South America.

CNN’s Sonya Hamasaki contributed to this report.

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8 comments

  • Michael Woodbrey

    I would like to see how the anti-Mormon groups try to tie the LDS church to this one. This action by the Kansas State Legislature is independent of any church affiliation. Protection for those refusing to perform such services is needed. I do not see why someone must do something that is contrary to his or her political or religious beliefs. When one compromises his or her faith, that person looses the soul.

    • RyNo

      I am glad people spread hate and bigotry over a fictional story book written thousands of years ago when people had slaves, stoned people to death, and nailed them to crosses… Time to evolve and accept everyone… If that what “faith” is, then I do not want to be any part of it… I will be the better person and accept everyone for who they are.

    • vliam

      “Protection for those refusing to perform such services is needed.”

      Really?

      Name a single lawsuit that would have been rejected as a result of this legislation.

  • glen

    we might as well put segregation back in to play if they are going to do that. and we might as well go back to 1862 and forget about what we have learned about racism. what has our country become I used to be a proud american now I am ashamed to be one. and are gov. does not do any good any more all they do is make laws that benefit them they don’t care about the people only the money that goes into their pockets

  • John

    So does this mean I can refuse services to Christians then? I mean if Christians want the right to refuse services then I should have the right to refuse services to them.

    • Ryan

      Amen! These Christians want everyone to follow their fictional story book, we should start refusing them service. “Sorry I don’t believe in your life style”

  • Steve

    John, you’re absolutely right. I’m looking forward to *that* lawsuit. But this law, even if passed and signed, will never last. The beauty of US vs. Windsor was not just that it knocked down DOMA, but that it elevated sexual orientation to what is known as a “suspect classification.” This requires courts to apply a much stricter level of scrutiny to cases of discrimination on the basis of orientation. It puts sexual orientation literally on the same legal level as race and gender. It’s why we have had win after win after win in courts across the nation following the Windsor ruling.

    Consider this law the last gasp of a dying and decaying society. Welcome in a new and fresh society of inclusion and diversity!

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