Government
9:42 am
Tue January 28, 2014

Some Say House Bill 2453 Protects Religious Freedom; Others Say It OK's LGBT Discrimination

Kansas' Federal and State Affairs Committee is considering a bill on Tuesday that would protect individuals, groups, and businesses that refuse to recognize same-sex unions.

The measure--House Bill 2453--would also protect those who refuse to provide benefits to gay couples for religious reasons.

Kansas added a ban against gay marriage to the state constitution in 2005. Voters approved the bill by a 70 percent margin.

But recently, federal judges struck down similar bans in Utah and Oklahoma.

Kansas state Representative Charles Macheers is leading the effort to pass the bill, and he says these court decisions "demonstrate that the legal landscape is in flux."

House Bill 2453 says no individual, business or religious group with sincerely held religious beliefs can be required by any government agency to provide services, facilities, goods, employment or employment benefits for a same-sex marriage or domestic partnership.

The measure bars anti-discrimination lawsuits.

Supporters say bill will protect religious freedom.

But Tom Witt, executive director of the group Equality Kansas says the Oklahoma and Utah decisions are significant to Kansas because all three states fall under the jurisdiction of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver.

Witt says he can envision numerous scenarios affecting the daily lives of gay couples and their families, such as hospitals refusing visitations to partners or schools not recognizing a partner as a child's second parent.

Also, he said, the language about government employees would allow them to refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples even if the courts strike down the state's same-sex marriage ban.

The Federal and State Affairs Committee is considering on Tuesday.