How far will red states go in the name of religious freedom? Just one day after the United States Department of Justice granted equal protection to same-sex couples in the federal court, Kansas passed a law that allows businesses to turn away gay couples in the name of religious freedom. In other words, if a business decides that its services will benefit a same-sex marriage, a civil union or even a gay couple, it can turn them away. This also protects employers from anti-discrimination lawsuits. This is a horrifying prospect for LGBTQ-plus people everywhere.
But this has nothing to do with the LGBTQ-plus community, of course – the Republican Party utilizes the façade of protecting religious freedom, and accordingly, Kentucky quickly passed a bill that could literally enforce anti-gay segregation. Unlike Kansas, this would extend to any private business, government entity, individual, public servant or group.
What does this mean? Gay couples – and potentially individuals – could be kicked out of hotels, restaurants and theaters. A hospital could refuse to accept a gay patient. A police officer could refuse to help a gay citizen if it conflicts with their religious beliefs. This applies for any state system – parks, pools, hospitals and even public schools as long as they “believe” their services will benefit gay couples.
How will they know it might be related to the celebration of a same-sex marriage or a civil union? As long as they “believe” it is – if they suspect someone of being gay, or helping someone who is, they can refuse to provide services.
Kansas Rep. Mark Kahrs makes the ridiculous comparison of “protecting a lesbian photographer who wanted to refuse to work for a Catholic wedding.” There is no comparison here; straight people are not being targeted and killed on the basis of their sexuality.
In a dark-red state, it would be absurd to consider that people will be denied ambulatory services, goods, protection under the law or even education. For those who deny services to LGBTQ-plus individuals crying “religious liberty,” there are no repercussions.
Thankfully, the Kansas Senate has refused to pass it. It called for a revision, particularly to revise how state and government employees could potentially refuse police or fire protection for gay couples. Some still hope to protect “religious liberties” in the revision, however, while maintaining “the dignity of gay and lesbian couples across the state,” according to Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas.
Regardless of whether the bill passes, the fact that the Kansas House of Representatives proposed and overwhelmingly supported it is a terrifying notion. This is a giant leap backward for our nation.
The contempt for one “sin” over hundreds of other sins is not merely religious extremism. Why homosexuality and not greed or disobedience? This is an act of total contempt that essentially legalizes discrimination against the LGBTQ-plus community.
It is no coincidence that the media emphasizes Russia’s anti-gay policies – it serves as a convenient juxtaposition to our own nation, which also falls short in protecting its LGBTQ-plus citizens. Rather than turning our noses up at other “reactionary” nations, perhaps we ought to look at our own issues first.