Kansans concerned about religious freedom should take a deep breath.
HB2453, a bill on the House floor in Topeka, is not necessary.
That bill would offer legal protection for public or private persons who refused for religious reasons to provide services to gay couples.
Indeed, the bill would go further and relieve “any individual or religious entity” from “treating any marriage, domestic partnership or civil union or similar arrangement as valid.”
This legislation has the backing of Focus on the Family, a powerful, well-meaning, traditionalist Christian organization.
But the bill is unnecessary for several reasons:
•Kansas already has a Religious Freedom Restoration Act. This law includes language from a federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act that was found not to apply to states. The Kansas law is quite valid and protects the minority rights of believers who face a “substantial” burden on their religious preference from government action.
•It is not illegal in Kansas to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. A photographer in Kansas could refuse to take pictures at a ceremony for a gay couple and that couple would have no case in court against the photographer.
•The prohibition against gay marriage in the Kansas Constitution remains in force. Neither the federal circuit court nor the U. S. Supreme Court has ruled on a pending case involving similar prohibitions in Oklahoma and Utah.
In this election year, it is fair to speculate that HB2453 will be used a political weapon against lawmakers who vote against it, whether the bill becomes law.
It is no surprise that opponents of gay marriage — and gay relationships — feel they must act to try to stem the tide of public opinion in support of gay rights. But HB2453 raises the religious rights of some over the individual rights of others.
Kansans are free to support or oppose homosexual relationships, but we should not create in law a group of second-class citizens when it comes to public or private services.