Government
10:30 am
Wed February 12, 2014

Kansas House Advances 'Religious Freedom Bill'

The Kansas House of Representatives has advanced a controversial bill that supporters say will protect religious freedom.

The bill is seen as a preemptive strike, in case federal courts invalidate the state's ban on same-sex marriage.

The measure prohibits punishing individuals or religious institutions for choosing not to provide goods or services that would be used in same-sex marriages.

Supporters of the bill say it protects people who don't want to provide services for same-sex marriages or don't want to recognize the unions for religious reasons.

“There have been times throughout history where people were persecuted for their religious beliefs, because they were unpopular," says Representative Charles Macheers, a Republican from Shawnee. "This bill provides a shield of protection for that.”

But opponents of the bill say it offers legal protection for discrimination against gays and lesbians.

Representative Louis Ruiz, a Democrat from Kansas City, Kansas, calls the bill an overreach by the government.

"I see this bill as one that discriminates against certain group of people," says Ruiz. "Whether we want to admit that or not, it's there."

The House will likely take a final vote on the bill Wednesday. If it passes, the legislation will move on to the state Senate.