Kansas Senate leaders promised Friday to dramatically change the controversial House religious freedom bill if it ever moves forward. Two major provisions are likely to be removed entirely.
They have said they would strike government employees from the bill, which now would allow private and public employees to decline to serve people based on religious views of marriage.
Kansas Chamber of Commerce president Mike O’Neal has called for employees of private businesses – included as “nonreligious” entities in the bill’s language – to be removed as well.
Evidently, the two houses of the Kansas legislature may still come together to pass a bad bill. But the provision allowing state workers to deny services to same-sex couples and related parties was by far the most odious and indefensible part of the bill, at least given the context in which gays and lesbians aren’t protected by state civil rights statutes. (The primary effect of the bill’s application to private business would have been to prevent localities where LBGT rights are more popular from enacting civil rights protections in local ordinances. I don’t know how many localities there are in Kansas where that would be a viable possibility in the near future.) If the provisions applying to non-religious businesses are taken out, even better.
If it’s surprising that the Senate controlled by the same party would immediately reject core provisions of the bill, Lowry provides the answer:
Macheers did not write the bill and said he did not know its origin. It was crafted by the American Religious Freedom Program, an organization based in Washington D.C. Similar bills are being considered in Tennessee and South Dakota.
So the bill went beyond what many members who voted for it seemed to intend — but when you’re dealing with people’s fundamental rights, that’s really not an acceptable performance.