Pro-con: Did Kansas need religious liberty bill?

Iowa Gay Marriage RallyWill the state force a florist, a caterer, a photographer or a baker – to name only a handful – to provide goods and services to anyone, contrary to their own consciences and religious beliefs? Kansas legislators attempted to answer that question in the negative, and they were right to do so. Some ill-informed commentators have compared what’s happening in Kansas to the old Jim Crow laws that marred the South for much of the 20th century before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They forget that Jim Crow forced businesses to discriminate and segregate by race. The Kansas bill, by contrast, would do nothing more than free private citizens from legal consequences if they choose not to do business associated with same-sex marriage. Compulsion versus choice: See the difference? Kansas lawmakers fought a valiant but doomed effort to preserve a shred of liberty rightly understood – liberty of conscience, liberty of contract, liberty of property, liberty of association. The courts and the culture have shifted. We have very few of those old liberties left. But, oh, goodness, do we have coercion galore. – Ben Boychuk, City Journal

Most Kansans hate Fred Phelps, the notorious anti-gay preacher. But if a “religious freedom” bill passes the Legislature in any form similar to the one that won approval in the Kansas House, well, Kansas will be tied more tightly to the Phelps legacy than ever before. You don’t have to shout “God hates fags” at the top of your lungs to put Phelps’ philosophy into action. And the only reason the bill exists is hysteria. Yes, in Colorado, a gay couple sued a cake maker who refused his services for their wedding. But unlike Colorado, Kansas has no legal protections for gays and lesbians. They have no legal standing to sue anybody for any reason connected to their sexuality. So a bill protecting Christians from gay lawsuits accomplishes almost nothing except to whip up emotions on all sides of the issue. Except this: It sends a signal, loud and clear, to Kansans and the rest of the world, that there is one group – and one group only – that the state gives explicit permission to discriminate against: gay and lesbian Kansans. That’s a breathtaking achievement. And it is wrong. – Joel Mathis, Philadelphia Magazine