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Conservative Kansas Lawmakers Primed to Reintroduce Religious Freedom Bill

Kansas’s “religious freedom bill’ that would allow both public and private businesses to refuse LGBT customers service on religious grounds failed to make it past the Senate floor earlier this year following a deluge of complaints. Supporters of the proposed bill are gearing up to reintroduce it for legislative consideration following a federal court’s decision to overturn Kansas’s ban on same sex marriage.

FitzgeraldBefore dying in the Senate, the religious freedom bill successfully made its way through Kansas’s House of Representatives. Lawmakers like Kansas state senator Steve Fitzgerald (R) explained to the Wichita Eagle that the first iteration of the bill had been mischaracterized in such a way that derailed its advancement. Reintroducing the bill soon, he explained, would give conservative Kansans a chance at maintaining their religious freedoms.

“So what you’ve got is we’ll sue you and take everything you can get unless you participate in and help us celebrate what you consider to be gravely evil,” he said, recounting instances of conservative businesses being sued for discrimination. “So your freedom of religion is exactly, mmm, pay up.”

“You can be fired for being gay. You can be evicted for being lesbian. And you can be kicked out of a restaurant for being transgender. And you have no recourse,” said Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas.

“Should businesses that do business with the public have to serve everybody? Yes. That’s a principle of American society. You are open for business, then you’re open for business to everybody. And you don’t get to choose what classes of people you’re not going to serve.”


Kansas Lawmakers Aim To Revive 'License To Discriminate' Bill Because Gay Marriage Is 'Gravely Evil': VIDEO

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A gay Kansas man who got married on the steps of the courthouse in a public ceremony last month was fired two days later after his boss saw him on the news, according to Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas. 

But Terry Fox, pastor of Wichita's Summit Church, wants to ensure that this type of discrimination remains perfectly legal. Fox is among those pushing Kansas lawmakers to revive a "license to discriminate" bill in the upcoming legislative session. 

"As the courts ignore the people's definition of marriage we need more protection to not have to violate our core Christian values," Fox told KWCH-TV

FitzgeraldThe bill passed the House earlier this year but died in the Senate after lawmakers were flooded with angry phone calls and emails, The Wichita Eagle reports. Some legislators — like Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-Leavenworth (right) — apparently haven't learned their lesson, and now they're emboldened by the arrival of marriage equality in Kansas: 

He says the bill is meant to protect religious Kansans from lawsuits. He pointed to a recent case in New York State in which owners of a farm that regularly hosts weddings were fined $13,000 for refusing to let a lesbian couple hold their wedding there.

“So what you’ve got is we’ll sue you and take everything you can get unless you participate in and help us celebrate what you consider to be gravely evil,” Fitzgerald said. 

In fact, Fitzgerald believes the bill should even extend to public employees, which could lead to police and firefighters refusing to help same-sex couples based on their religious beliefs: 

“Should a judge be required to perform a ceremony? A question for you,” Fitzgerald said. “The basic question is regardless of your employment should you be forced, compelled, coerced, made under force of law or threat of suit, to go against your own morals?”

The fact that the bill would have extended to public employees was one of the reasons it was halted by Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, who said at the time that "public service needs to remain public service for the entire public.”

And even Republicans who supported the bill, including House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, have said they regret the decision and appear reluctant to revisit the topic.   

Unfortunately, that probably won't stop someone like Fitzgerald from reintroducing the measure, and with anti-gay Gov. Sam Brownback at the helm, anything's possible.

Brownback is refusing to recognize same-sex marriages despite a federal judge's decision saying state law violates gay couples' right to equal protection under the 14th Amendment.

As for that ruling, Fitzgerald had this to say:  

“So we’re to believe that the Reconstruction Congress was anxious to spread sodomy throughout the states at the time? That was the intent of the 14th Amendment due process clause?”

Watch KWCH-TV's report, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Kansas Lawmakers Aim To Revive 'License To Discriminate' Bill Because Gay Marriage Is 'Gravely Evil': VIDEO" »


Callers Threaten To Behead Kansas Pastor For Performing Same-Sex Marriages: VIDEO

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The pastor of the Metropolitan Community Church in Wichita, Kansas, says she's been receiving about one threatening phone call a day since same-sex marriage became legal there last month. 

The Rev. Jackie Carter says the calls have ranged from heavy breathing to someone threatening to cut off her head off and carry it through the town square on a stick. 

This past Monday, someone called the church, rang the doorbell and threw rocks at the windows all at the same time, The Wichita Eagle reports: 

“Honestly, I’m beginning to get more scared every day that this goes on,” she said. “I’ve kind of talked myself into trying to be more calm about it and realizing that there are more people out there that are supporting us than threatening harm to us.”

She said the church has instructed people to leave the building in pairs, especially at night, for safety. Carter said that she has reported some of the threats to the Wichita Police Department, but that the department’s ability to investigate is limited because the callers have been anonymous and no number shows up on the church’s caller ID.

Even a leading opponent of same-sex marriage, conservative Wichita pastor Terry Fox, is condemning the threats: 

“Anybody who does something like that, there’s nothing Christian about threatening someone bodily damage or something like that. In fact it’s about as unchristian as anything can be,” Fox said. “And it helps no one’s cause. If anything, it hurts that cause. It breaks my heart to hear that anyone would have to endure those kinds of threats from the right or anywhere else.”

Last month, Carter performed a group wedding ceremony for 15 same-sex couples on the steps of the county courthouse. The ceremony was interrupted by a protester chanting "God says no," but the wedding party drowned him out with chants of "God says yes" as he was led away. 

"I'm not going to change my message of inclusion, I'm not going to change my message of love, and I'm not going to stop marrying people. I'm going to keep it up," Carter told KSN.com. 

Watch KSN's report on the threats, as well as last month's same-sex marriage ceremony, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

Continue reading "Callers Threaten To Behead Kansas Pastor For Performing Same-Sex Marriages: VIDEO" »


Former Westboro Baptist Church Member Helps Homeless LGBT Jamaicans

Grace phelps

A former member of listed hate group the Westboro Baptist Church has travelled to Jamaica to work with gay people who have been ostracized by society and made homeless, reports Pink News.

Grace Phelps (pictured above right with sister Megan), the daughter of Westboro Baptist Church spokeswoman Shirley Phelps, went on a trip organized by Planting Peace, a grass roots equality project which runs Equality House with a base opposite the Phelps family church.

Grace and Megan left the hate church last year.

She explained:

Shirley phelps-roper“I spent twenty years learning why God hates gays, preaching that they’re ‘beasts’ and ‘depraved,’ and protesting anyone who dared to speak up for them.

“When I heard about the young people living in Jamaican sewers because their parents kicked them out for being gay, my heart hurt for them.

“I know what that’s like, being rejected by your family for not going along with their beliefs.

“There’s an irony there that I couldn’t ignore: that I share a fate with the very people I was taught to dehumanize so fiercely. I wanted to meet them, to see their plight for myself, and help tell the world their story.”

Planting Peace president Aaron Jackson said:

“Grace and I have become good friends since she left the church, and she jumped at the opportunity to join with Planting Peace and help document the conditions in Jamaica when I told her what was happening there. What we witnessed in the sewers of Kingston was nothing short of horrific.

"We documented acid attacks, stab wounds and even personally witnessed an altercation. The world has made great strides in the fight for equality, but this trip was a sobering reminder of how far we still have to go.”




ACLU Revises Challenge to Kansas Gay Marriage Ban

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The American Civil Liberties Union has updated its challenge to Kansas’s ban on same sex marriage to prevent the state from ignoring marriages performed in and out of state. The revised lawsuit is looking to require the state to extend insurance and taxes benefits to gay and lesbian married couples as well as allow them to legally change their names on identification to reflect their unions. The original suit was filed on the behalf of a single lesbian couple who were not granted marriage licenses in two different counties. The suit now adds an additional three couples agitating to have their marriages recognized.

Previously, Kansas governor Sam Brownback publicly asserted his refusal to grant gay couples the same marital benefits afforded to their straight counterparts.

"We are very disappointed the state has continued to play this obstruction game," said ACLU attorney Doug Bonney. "The time is here to recognize the marriages as valid and lawful just like any other marriage.”

Secretary of the Kansas Department of Revenue, Nick Jordan; director of the division of Vehicles, Lisa Kaspar; and director of the State Employee Health Plan have been added as defendants following the ACLU’s new revision. According to the lawsuit the each of the newly added defendants represents a Kansas agency responsible for discriminating against same sex married couples.


ACLU Will Sue Kansas to Force State Agencies to Recognize Gay Marriages

Kansas

The ACLU of Kansas is poised to amend its lawsuit challenging the ban on same-sex marriage in order to force state agencies to grant marriage benefits to same-sex couples.

Yesterday, we reported that despite marriage equality having commenced in many Kansas counties, Governor Sam Brownback was refusing to allow any state recognition of same-sex unions.

The Wichita Eagle reports:

Doug Bonney, who represented the couples suing the state, said the plaintiffs would amend their complaint to force state agencies to recognize the marriages and grant full legal rights to the newly married couples.

This includes the right to change the last name on your driver’s license to your spouse’s. For the spouses of state employees, it also includes receiving state health care benefits.

Bonney said they would sue Gov. Sam Brownback if necessary. He added the governor has the authority to direct agencies on how to respond to the ruling but said the administration’s combative response was disappointing. He also said it would cost taxpayers a lot of money in the long run.


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