(Update) Kansas Senate blocks religious bigotry bill – same as Arizona’s religious bigotry bill

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

The New York Times today has an update on the surprising move by the Tea-Publican controlled Senate in the Kansas legislature blocking the same model legislation for religious bigotry that is in the Arizona legislature. In Kansas, Right Joins Left to Halt Bill on Gays:

A bill that would have allowed individuals to refuse to provide business services to same-sex couples in Kansas because of religious beliefs met a surprising and quick end last week when conservative senators sided with liberal advocates in saying that the measure promoted discrimination.

The bill had passed the House, 72 to 49, last Wednesday and it appeared that it might also easily sail through the Senate. Both chambers are controlled by conservative Republicans who in recent years have passed some of the most conservative legislation in the country, whether on gun control, abortion rights or taxes.

Susan Wagle, a conservative Republican who is president of the Kansas Senate, raised opposition to the House measure, saying she had “grown concerned about the practical impact of the bill” and “my members don’t condone discrimination.”

Ms. Wagle was backed by Senator Jeff King, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who said he would not hold hearings on the House bill. Instead, Mr. King said, his committee would hold hearings on the broader topic of religious freedom in Kansas and explore whether the Legislature needed to take any further steps to shore up those protections.

Last year, the Legislature passed the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which protects residents from government burdens that may force them to break their religious beliefs. That bill stemmed in part from concerns that employers could be forced to provide contraception under the federal health care law.

The bill proposed in this year’s session seemed to go further in explicitly allowing any individual to raise a religious objection in refusing to recognize same-sex couples or provide them with services.

“To me, the bill was not as narrowly tailored as it needed to be,” Mr. King said. “We need razor precision in the language of the bill as to what religious liberties we’re trying to protect and how we protect them in a nondiscriminatory fashion.”

The turn against the bill came as a welcome surprise to civil liberties advocates in Kansas and across the country. “The public outcry by midweek had reached such a volume that the Senate just wasn’t going to be able to take it up,” said Thomas Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas, a nonprofit group that fights discrimination and strongly opposed the bill. “I don’t know what surprised me more, the level of public involvement in this or the speed with which the Senate president basically ended the prospects for the bill.”

* * *

Opponents included the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which said that the measure could lead to increased costs for businesses. The chamber took particular exception to a provision in the bill that said that if an employee of the government or “other nonreligious entity” objected to providing a service based on religious beliefs, the employer would have to find another employee to fill in or find some other way to provide the service.

Businesses were “not interested in getting into these guessing games as to someone’s intent and whether a strongly held religious belief is legitimate or not,” said Mike O’Neal, the president of the chamber.

Eunice Rho, the advocacy and policy counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that while it was pleased with the developments, it remained wary of the potential for the measure to be resurrected. Similar measures to allow businesses to refuse services to gays are pending in South Dakota and Tennessee, Ms. Rho said.

AND in Arizona: Sen Steve Yarbough's SB 1062 (.pdf) would allow those sued in civil cases to claim that they have a legal right to decide not to provide their services to any individual or group because it would “substantially burden” their freedom of religion. This Religious Bigotry bill has already passed the Senate Government and Environment Committee. Rep. "Fast Eddie" Farnsworth's House version of the Religious Bigotry bill, HB 2153 (.pdf), has already passed the House Committee on Government and Rules Committee.

Where are the "mythical moderate Republicans" that Arizona's political media would have us believe exist? Where are the Republican politicians willing to take a stand, like their counterparts in Kansas, to say no to discrimination and hatred? This should not be difficult nor considered bravery to do.

Where is the leadership from our Chamber organizations in Arizona in opposition to this state-sanctioned segregation bill? Do Arizona businesses really want to see a return to the era of American Apartheid, with signs that say "we cater to straights only" and "no gays or lesbians"? Is this the America that we aspire to be?



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