A bill was passed in Kansas yesterday that its opponents claim would legalise discrimination against LGBT persons if made law.
Some Democrats joined Republicans in the House on the 89-27 vote. Its opponents are concerned that the Senate will follow up on this and that Governor Sam Brownback will sign the bill into law. If Governor Brownback takes this course of action, then any US citizen can veto anti-discrimination laws that protect LGBT people by claiming their “religious freedom” is being compromised.
This would mean anything from an employer firing someone because they were gay to a landlord making homeless a tenant. This religious exemption would extend to businesses and universities, where employers, students or teachers could opt out of anti-discrimination policies, where they exist.
The roots of the bill, called the “Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act”, can be traced to the reaction to the college town of Lawrence passing an anti-discrimination ordinance that included sexual orientation. This new state law would make that null and void – as well as any other local anti-discrimination laws around sexual orientation – by granting citizens the right to opt out if they felt it was against their faith.
Jan Pauls, a Democrat on the Judiciary Committee that heard testimony about the bill, backs the proposal. She said: “I don’t think an ordinance should trump other people’s religious rights.
“The question is personal belief as far as religion. Should that be trumped by forcing people to then support a lifestyle that they don’t support due to their religion? If this law were passed, people could bring up their religion as a reason that they did not want to follow the ordinances.”