Kansas is awaiting a final vote, scheduled to be held on February 12, on the controversial House Bill 2453, which allows any business or government employee to legally discriminate based on religious grounds against same-sex couples. If it passes, it will next go to the Republican-controlled state Senate.
The controversial bill has already passed through the House of Representatives in an overwhelming vote of 72 to 42.
Under the bill, hotels, restaurants and stores will be able to use their religious beliefs to legally refuse service to not only the LGBT community, but women in the workplace, if a person disagrees with their lifestyle.
The bill states, “No individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender.”
Under that vague wording, not only will businesses and employees be able to use their religious beliefs to refuse service to someone based on their sexual identity, but they would also be allowed to discriminate based on gender, which could have adverse effects on women in the workplace.
The bill would prevent government sanctions and anti-discrimination lawsuits when religious belief is cited as a reason not to recognize civil unions or marriages or to provide employment benefits, accommodation and adoption services to couples.
The bill was originally drafted in response to the legalization of same-sex marriage in other states.
Supporters have described the bill as essential for religious freedom, claiming its purpose is religious based and focused on the celebration of marriage rather than discrimination against the LGBT community.
Representative Steven Brunk said “it has to do with marriage,” claiming that the bill protects people from being forced into something “that celebrates or solemnizes in some way a marriage, whether it’s a homosexual marriage or a heterosexual marriage.”
Those in opposition to the bill have objected on the grounds that it will encourage LGBT and gender discrimination.
Equality Kansas spokesman Tom Witt said, “It’s about telling government employees they don’t have to do their jobs. They can pretend legal marriages don’t exist.”