Category Archives: Gay rights

‘Religious freedom’ bill likely to be back

gayweddingcakeGiven that a recent federal appeals court ruling puts Kansas’ same-sex marriage ban in jeopardy, it’s not surprising that some are planning another push next legislative session to pass a “religious freedom” law. The Kansas House passed a bill this past session that would grant additional legal protections to those who don’t want to accommodate same-sex couples for religious reasons. But the bill immediately died in the Senate after opposition from the business community, gay rights groups and others who said the bill sought to legalize discrimination. “We are not going to let it die. We are very committed,” Wichita pastor Terry Fox told Associated Press. Thomas Witt of Wichita, executive director of Equality Kansas, also expects the issue to resurface next session. “I don’t think they’re going to stop their attacks,” he said.

Time likely running out on Kansas’ gay-marriage ban

gayweddingcakeWhat is most striking about all the recent court decisions striking down state bans on gay marriage is the diversity of judges and states. Since last June, 13 judges in red and blue states have either overturned bans on gay marriage or ordered states to recognize gay marriages from other states, the Sunday Eagle reported. Opponents of gay marriage have tried to blame these decisions on “activist judges.” But as Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, noted, “judges of all backgrounds and political affiliations are striking down these state-level bans.” It’s likely only a matter of time before Kansas’ ban is struck down, too.

Phelps’ survivors are due respect he denied others

phelpssignThrough the anti-gay picketing that he and his followers did across the country, including at military funerals, Fred Phelps caused untold amounts of heartache for individuals and brought shame on his state. He also inspired many new laws, as the federal government and states sought, with limited success, to curb the Westboro Baptist Church’s First Amendment right to spew its hate for homosexuals. But as the group Equality Kansas suggested this week, the best way to respond to Phelps’ death at age 84 is with respect for his survivors and their privacy – the opposite of what he showed gays and lesbians and grieving military families for so many years.

Kassebaum Baker offered support for same-sex marriage

kassebaumThe 20 Republicans who signed a friend of the court brief in support of legalizing same-sex marriage in Utah and Oklahoma included former Kansas Sen. Nancy Kassebaum Baker (in photo). “It is precisely because marriage is so important in producing and protecting strong and stable family structures that (we) do not agree that the government can rationally promote the goal of strengthening families by denying civil marriage to same-sex couples,” argued the group, led by Kassebaum Baker and former Wyoming Sen. Alan Simpson. The group referred to President Reagan’s belief that the Republican Party must be a “big tent” and quoted Barry Goldwater’s statement that “we don’t seek to lead anyone’s life for him. We only seek to secure his rights.” The federal appeals court in Denver plans hearings in Utah’s case on April 10 and Oklahoma’s on April 17.

Christian bakers should let them eat cake

gayweddingcake“Conservative Christians should not be in the condemnation business, but in the restoration business,” wrote Cal Thomas, in a column about the Arizona bill meant to guarantee the “free exercise of religion” for businesses and their employees as gay-rights advocates push for legal and societal approval of same-sex marriage. Thomas said: “The Christian bakers who refused to bake the cake might have used their opportunity to tell the gay couple about the God who loves them more than they could ever love each other. That would have been a proper – and biblical – exercise of their faith and religious freedom under the First Amendment’s free-speech clause.”

Glickman: What happened to Kansas’ civil rights leadership?

glickmanAdd the voice of former Wichita congressman Dan Glickman to those of current and former Kansans expressing disappointment in the House’s passage of the bill that would have enabled government and private-sector employees to use religious beliefs to refuse service to gay couples. Writing for Huffington Post, Glickman wondered what has happened to the state linked to the Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954 and the first lunch-counter sit-in at a Wichita drugstore in 1958. “I sincerely hope that this bill never rears its ugly head again and that this episode is nothing more than an aberration from the leadership Kansas has taken against discrimination throughout the state’s history,” wrote Glickman, now senior fellow at the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “From William Allen White’s fight against the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s to Sen. Bob Dole’s leadership on major civil rights and anti-discrimination legislation, Kansans have a lot to be proud of in their state’s leadership against discrimination.”

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

Sullivan: Kansas bill also about national GOP

gayweddingcakeThe scathing national commentary about the Kansas House’s passage of HB 2453 included a thoughtful condemnation by Andrew Sullivan, who said the bill “is premised on the notion that the most pressing injustice in Kansas right now is the persecution some religious people are allegedly experiencing at the hands of homosexuals.” Sullivan, an openly gay conservative, also wrote: “If the Republican Party wanted to demonstrate that it wants no votes from anyone under 40, it couldn’t have found a better way to do it.” And he said: “This is about Kansas, but it is also about the Republican Party. Are there any Republicans willing to oppose this new strategy? Do the GOP’s national leaders support it?”

Wagle sees bill for what it is: discrimination

waglenewSenate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, is wise to be concerned about the impact of House Bill 2453, which allows people, including government employees, to refuse service to same-sex couples. She said the bill, which overwhelmingly passed the House, is unlikely to pass the Senate, saying her members “don’t condone discrimination.” The bill was crafted by an out-of-state group and pitched as a defense of religious liberties in case Kansas’ same-sex marriage prohibition is overturned by the courts. But as written, the bill is a license to discriminate. Good for Wagle and other senators for seeing through it.

Equal protection or majority rule on marriage rights?

gayweddingcake1Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin complained Tuesday about a court striking down her state’s ban on same-sex marriages, saying that “the will of the people has once again been ignored by the federal government.” But U.S. District Judge Terence Kern ruled that those in the minority are entitled to equal protection under the U.S. Constitution. “Exclusion of just one class of citizens from receiving a marriage license based upon the perceived ‘threat’ they pose to the marital institution is, at bottom, an arbitrary exclusion based upon the majority’s disapproval of the defined class,” he wrote. “It is also insulting to same-sex couples, who are human beings capable of forming loving, committed, enduring relationships.”

Roberts, Moran didn’t stand against discrimination

Neither Kansan in the U.S. Senate was among the 10 Republicans who helped pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act on Thursday. In the unlikely event that the landmark bill passes the currently GOP-led House and becomes law, it will add protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans to those that bar workplace discrimination on the basis of religion, race, gender, disability and age. It exempts religious institutions and the military, and was amended Wednesday to protect religious groups further. The Kansans’ “no” votes were not surprising, especially considering that Sen. Pat Roberts (left) has a GOP primary challenger next year. But it’s disappointing that neither Roberts nor Sen. Jerry Moran was willing to take a stand against workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, recalling memories of their votes last December against the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.

Delegation isn’t rushing to sponsor marriage amendment

A bill by Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, that would amend the U.S. Constitution to block gay marriages had 47 co-sponsors as of Monday, the Hutchinson News reported. So far no other Kansas delegation member had signed on, though Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-Wichita, is considering it. “I strongly believe in defending traditional marriage as between a man and a woman and am looking at this amendment carefully,” he said in a statement. The measure would have to be approved by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate (which won’t happen) before going to the states for a vote.

Pro-con: Was same-sex marriage ruling the right decision?

Wednesday saw a triumph in the continuing struggle for equality in America. A divided Supreme Court rolled back two discriminatory laws, California’s Proposition 8 and a provision of the federal Defense of Marriage Act. Though not a total victory for those who believe gay and lesbian couples everywhere should be able to marry, the decisions nonetheless built upon and extended what has been a momentous half year for gay rights. Until the justices rule more forcefully, same-sex marriage advocates must look beyond the courts for action and toward democratic legitimacy. If Californians voted again on same-sex marriage, polls show that what was a close call in 2008 would be an easy win today. The court’s rulings Wednesday were welcome, but in essence they only affirmed how quickly the nation has moved away from prejudice and toward essential respect for all Americans. – Washington Post

It was outrageous for the Supreme Court to invalidate Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act and allow the potential invalidation of California’s Proposition 8, a law passed with the support of more than 7 million voters. Although Wednesday was a sad day for democracy and for marriage, this is not the end of the battle. The vast majority of states recognize marriage solely as the union of one man and one woman. Only 13 states and the District of Columbia recognize same-sex “marriage,” and nothing the Supreme Court just did changes that fact. If anything, the court’s opinion in United States v. Windsor, the DOMA case, shows that the federal government must respect the decision of states to define marriage as they choose. – Brian S. Brown, National Organization for Marriage

Huelskamp fears for motherhood

In a commentary in the Washington Times, Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, characterized “God, the flag, mom and apple pie” as pillars “of the American paradigm for our patriotic, wholesome culture.” He claimed that “activist judges have already expelled faith from the public square” and “decriminalized burning the Stars and Stripes in public.” Huelskamp continued: “The first lady’s ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative and New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s sugary-drink ban suggest the days of consuming apple pie might well be numbered. That leaves motherhood.” And that will be irreparably harmed, he wrote, if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns California’s Proposition 8 and the federal Defense of Marriage Act. “Redefining marriage to remove parents of both sexes from the equation would further the destruction of the family, the most fundamental building block of society,” he wrote.

How settled is marriage issue in Kansas?

Gov. Sam Brownback may think same-sex marriage is a settled issue in Kansas eight years after nearly 70 percent of voters approved a constitutional amendment that prohibited it and barred the state from recognizing civil unions. And 87 percent of those Kansans recently polled by SurveyUSA said their opinion on same-sex marriage hadn’t changed over the past couple of years. But the survey, sponsored by KWCH, Channel 12, also found that 60 percent of Kansans said same-sex couples should be able to share in the legal benefits of marriage. In addition, 42 percent said the U.S. Supreme Court should uphold lower courts’ rulings against California’s Proposition 8, the 2008 law defining marriage as between one man and one woman.

Big election for gay rights, though not in Kansas

Though city ordinances protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination were voted down in Hutchinson and Salina, there were big victories for gay rights nationally. Maine and Maryland voters legalized gay marriage, and Minnesota voters rejected a constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage. Washington state also appears to have legalized gay marriage. Meanwhile, Wisconsin elected the first openly gay U.S. senator in history, Rep. Tammy Baldwin.

Is Chick-fil-A waffling like its fries?

A Chicago official and a gay-rights organization announced last week that Chick-fil-A executives had pledged to stop giving money to anti-gay groups. The company said in a letter that its nonprofit arm, the WinShape Foundation, would not support “organizations with political agendas,” and it affirmed in a statement that it would protect its employees against discrimination. But after a backlash from conservative Christians who had rallied to support the company, Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy denied the company has agreed to cease making donations to groups that oppose gay marriage.

Public wants limits on PAC donations

More than 8 in 10 Americans want limits on the amount of money that corporations, unions and other groups can donate to political action committees to try to influence U.S. elections, according to a survey by Associated Press and the National Constitution Center. But as AP noted, such limits might require a constitutional amendment, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the 2010 Citizens United case that such spending is a protected form of political speech. More than 6 in 10 of those surveyed also favored giving same-sex couples the same government benefits as other married couples, and slightly more than half of Americans support legal recognition of gay marriage.

Is Moran OK with discrimination of gays?

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran’s political action committee, Free State PAC, donated $500 to the Kansas Family Policy Council, a Wichita-based group opposed to city ordinances that protect people from discrimination based on sexual orientation, the Hutchinson News reported. KFPC is spearheading petition drives aimed at rescinding anti-discrimination ordinances in Hutchinson and Salina. The Hutchinson ordinance protects people from being fired or evicted because of their sexual orientation.

Chick-fil-A flap a First Amendment issue

The reaction to Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy saying that he supports traditional marriages “tells you everything you need to know about certain liberals who believe every sort of speech, activity and expression should be protected, except the speech, activity and expression of evangelical Christians,” columnist Cal Thomas wrote. He argued that the controversy and calls by some to boycott Chick-fil-A are more than an economic battle. “It is a First Amendment issue,” he wrote. “Freedom of speech is guaranteed by the Constitution. Cathy has a right to his opinion.”

Huelskamp is king against gay rights

First-term Rep. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler, was named the “most anti-gay U.S. representative” by the website Think Progress, topping the list of 144 members of Congress who have sponsored or co-sponsored at least 10 pieces of legislation viewed as hostile to gay rights. The website credited Huelskamp with amendments to ban a directive that allows military chaplains to voluntarily solemnize same-sex unions and to prohibit the use of funds in violation of the Defense of Marriage Act, as well as a bill to bar the use of military facilities for same-sex unions. After summing up Huelskamp’s and others’ actions, the website concluded: “While Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio, has downplayed his party’s focus on social issues, preferring to talk about jobs, it’s clear where he and his caucus are really focused.”

Violent threats didn’t come from God

God has been wrongly portrayed by a local anti-abortion activist and a Kansas pastor in recent days. Angel Dillard, who is being sued by the U.S. Justice Department for a threatening letter she sent to a Wichita doctor, claimed in a court filing that her message was “divinely inspired.” Meanwhile, incredibly, the pastor of New Hope Baptist Church in Seneca in north-central Kansas said that it’s time for the U.S. government to begin killing gay men and lesbians, the Huffington Post reported. “They should be put to death,” Curtis Knapp told his congregation. “‘Oh, so you’re saying we should go out and start killing them, no?’ – I’m saying the government should. They won’t, but they should.”

Public also evolving on same-sex marriage

Thirty-eight percent of Americans support same-sex marriage and 24 percent support civil unions, while 33 percent oppose both, according to a new CBS News/New York Times survey. Only 32 percent of those surveyed think the federal government should determine whether same-sex marriage is legal, and 57 percent favor letting individual states make that decision. Yet 50 percent favor an amendment to the U.S. Constitution banning same-sex marriage. Sixty-seven percent of those surveyed think President Obama is now supporting gay marriage “mostly for political reasons,” though 57 percent said his decision would have no effect on which candidate they support. A Washington Post/ABC News poll found voters nearly evenly split on Obama’s announcement, with 46 percent having a favorable view and 47 percent unfavorable.

Does it matter if Romney used to be a bully?

Does it matter if Mitt Romney bullied gay students when he was in high school, including by holding one student down and cutting his hair? Not really, said Daniel Foster of the National Review. “Just about all of us were picked on at some point or another, and just about all of us have done something cruel in our younger years,” he wrote. “The former doesn’t give us any unique insight, and the latter doesn’t define us as people.” Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen agrees, but he thinks what does matter is Romney’s response, or lack there of. “Romney admitted nothing, confessed to nothing – except youth,” Cohen wrote. “He occasionally ‘might have gone too far’ with certain unspecified pranks. Nothing more.”

Could atheist landlord refuse to rent to evangelicals?

When asked if the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which the House approved last week, could be used as a defense by an apartment owner who refused to rent to a same-sex couple, the bill’s author, Rep. Lance Kinzer, R-Olathe, replied, “That is generally correct.” That prompted Lawrence Journal-World readers to wonder about other scenarios. Could a landlord refuse to rent to a divorcee because her lifestyle violates his religion? Could a Hindu landlord refuse to rent to people who eat beef? How about an atheist refusing to rent to an evangelical Christian?