Saturday, February 22, 2014

147.6 - Footnote: Kansas tries to legalize discrimination

Footnote: Kansas tries to legalize discrimination

As a footnote to that, let's be clear here: The battle against bigotry is by no means won. On this front, we are winning, but progressive tense has not yet become past tense.

As one example, the Kansas state House of Representatives recently passed a bill that declared that both public and private employees - any employee - can refuse "any service," quote unquote, to same-sex couples, so long as they claim it is because they have a religious reason to oppose marriage equality, civil unions, or "similar arrangements." The evidence required to prove such claim of a religious exemption is all but nonexistent, and individuals who try to file suit against private businesses for discrimination will be required to pay the business's legal fees if that business is found to be within these impossibly broad new "rights."

State Rep. Charles Macheers argued that the provision was designed to prevent discrimination against religious individuals, who suffer from such oppression. Quoting him:
Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful. It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill.
Right, because discrimination is so horrible, we are going to write into the law the right for religious bigots to discriminate the way they want to.

Under the law, government agencies would still be mandated to render services to Kansans, but individual employees - again, any individual employee - would be empowered to refuse assistance to individuals that violated their religious beliefs on marriage. Under the law, that would even allow for, say, a cop to answer a call about a domestic dispute - or even a burglary - arrive at the house to find it's same-sex couple, say "Forget it, I won't help you" and leave. And there would be no recourse.

This has become part of the latest reactionary attempt to hold back the tide of history: Bills have been introduced in several states with this same argument, that it is a violation of First Amendment rights of freedom of religion to expect people to just do their jobs when they are dealing with LGBT people.

Still, it's silver lining time. After the bill passed the House and headed for the state Senate, all hell broke loose in Topeka. The capitol was inundated with state and national media and faced a major voter backlash. Students doing voter registration at one campus in the state said that even the most conservative among those who approached their table said this bill went too far.

The upshot? The day after the bill passed the House, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said the bill will not pass in her chamber as it is currently written. She said that she had been favor of the bill, Gov. Sam Brownback had been favor of the bill, and the House speaker had been favor of the bill "until the ramifications became more clear."

Yep. They were all for it - until "the ramifications became clear." Those ramifications being that they discovered, doubtless to their surprise, that even in the prairie heartland, there is a point beyond which you cannot go.


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