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Proposed Kansas Bill Would Allow Religion-Based Discrimination Against Gays

MacheersKansas lawmakers are considering a bill from Kansas state Rep. Charles Macheers (pictured) that would protect businesses, groups, and individuals who don't want to serve gay married couples for religious reasons, the AP reports:

The legislator pushing the bill says it's designed to protect religious freedom, and Republican Gov. Sam Brownback is receptive to the idea, though he hasn't yet studied the proposal enough to offer a formal endorsement.

However, critics say the measure promotes discrimination against gays and lesbians, and is so broadly written that it could apply to any couple, gay or straight, with a less-than-traditional union.

The Kansas House's Federal and State Affairs Committee scheduled a hearing for Tuesday morning on the measure. It's not clear how quickly the committee might act on it.

Said Brownback: "I think it's something we that need to protect, our people's religious liberties and religious rights."

According to the ACLU the bill's interpretation could be broad:

Companies offering benefits to legally married gay couples or domestic partners could have their policies blocked by individual employees. She said businesses could make decisions about benefits for straight couples based on whether an owner doesn't think a marriage is traditional enough.


Check Out the Insane Water Slide Coming to Kansas City: VIDEO

Verruckt

Schlitterbahn, a Kansas City, KS water park is going to welcome Verrückt, the world's tallest waterslide, this summer.

It's estimated to be 17 stories tall but will be officially measured later this year, and here's a virtual tour of the wet thriller. Not for the faint of heart.

Verrückt is German for "insane", of course.

Check it out, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Gay-Inclusive Human Trafficking Anti-Discrimination Regulations Criticized By Kansas Lawmakers

A sweeping new anti-trafficking law in Kansas is being criticized by some state lawmakers for what is seen as the problematic inclusion of sexual orientation in its nondiscrimination statutes.  

Darcie Smith, Kansas Department of Health and Environment director for child placing and residential programming appeared before a joint committee at the state capitol on Tuesday to answer concerns regarding the law’s regulations and implementation. The Topeka Capital-Journal reports:

Jan PaulsAfter rattling off a series of nondiscrimination categories for admission to the secure facilities that included gender and race, Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson (pictured right), asked Smith why sexual orientation was also included.

 “I wasn’t sure what your origin was on listing sexual preference," Pauls said. "Gender covers a lot of the sexual discrimination, potentially. I just wasn’t sure why the sexual preference was added.”

Smith said it was a safeguard to ensure homosexual victims get helped.

In a bit of illogical mental gymnastics, Pauls said that while she didn’t believe any LGBT human trafficking victims would be denied access to a safe house on that basis, she claimed that including it in the legal nondiscrimination regulations could pose problems for religious institutions providing help that oppose homosexual activity.

Pauls, a lawyer, noted that state statutes don’t include sexual orientation among attributes for which Kansans are protected from discrimination.

“Once you use the term 'discrimination' we usually follow our statutes,” Pauls said.

Pauls and other state representatives proposed that the language regarding “sexual preference” should be removed from the nondiscrimination provisions. Rep. Mark Kahrs said he concurred with Pauls' recommendation and suggested that KDHE add "ancestry" in place of sexual preference. 

State lawmakers on the other side of the issue, however, expressed concern that removing “sexual preference” from the statutes would leave LGBT human trafficking victims vulnerable and excluded from guarantees of basic services. 

 ...Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said during a break in the hearing he thought the department was smart to include sexual orientation because human trafficking often relates directly to sexual activity and some of the victims will be homosexuals.

"If you want to help people who are involved in human trafficking, you don't want to leave out that five percent or 10 percent," Hawk said.

The Huffington Post reports that Pauls has a long history as a rabidly anti-gay lawmaker. She authored the state's ban on gay marriage that was approved by voters in 2005. In 2011, Pauls was the leader of an effort to keep the state's sodomy ban on the books and pushed to not expand the state's civil rights laws to include sexual orientation. 


Gay Couples File Lawsuit Against Kansas for Discriminatory Tax Filing Policy

Two married gay couples are suing the state of Kansas over its instructions that same-sex couples continue to file their state tax returns separately, the AP reports:

KansasThe lawsuit, filed Monday, alleges that the state Department of Revenue is violating state tax laws that tie the Kansas income tax code to the federal code, noting that the Internal Revenue Service recognizes unions from states in which gay marriage is legal, allowing joint filing. The lawsuit also says the state agency exceeded its authority by imposing what amounts to a new regulation without first seeking public comment or standard legal reviews.

The Department of Revenue issued a notice in October, "Guidance for Same-Sex Couples," spelling out the policy. It requires each person to file either as an individual or head of household. The lawsuit seeks a court injunction blocking the department from enforcing the policy and a ruling that the policy is discriminatory.

Tom Witt, executive director for Equality Kansas added:

“In Kansas all married persons have to use the same income and tax status and information on all tax returns,” Witt said. “There is no separate law for legally married same-sex couples, and the state shouldn’t be making separate rules that penalize or stigmatize married gay and lesbian Kansans.”


Wichita Anchorman Drops F-Bomb During Sign-Off: VIDEO

Anchor

While signing off for the 10pm Saturday night news broadcast, Wichita KSN anchorman Justin Kraemer said what's on the mind of anyone finishing a late-night weekend shift—he just didn't realize his mic was still on—whoops!

The Daily Dot says, "There has been no official response from KSN about the incident and Kraemer's station profile and Facebook page remain intact." But will the Federal Communications Commission issue the station a fine? Hmmm...

Watch the F-bomb, AFTER THE JUMP...

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Male Kansas Teen Suspended From School For Carrying Purse: VIDEO

SkylerThirteen-year old Skylar Davis of Garnett, Kansas was suspended from school yesterday for wearing a Vera Bradley purse to Anderson County Senior-Junior School and refusing to take it off, KCTV 5 New reports. Skylar has been wearing the bag since school started in August. School officials have not had a problem with the bag until yesterday. Though the school has not issued a statement regarding Skylar's suspension, he was told not to return to school until he stops wearing the purse, something he does not intend to do. Skylar and his family believe the school's actions are discriminatory:

"I don't think everyone should be treated differently," Skylar Davis said. "Everyone should have the same privileges...[The purse] expresses myself and I think everyone else can wear it, so I wear it as well," Skylar told KCTV5's Dave Jordan. [...]

"I was a little furious, and I called the school [and spoke to Assistant Principal Don Hillard] to reverify the story, and yeah, he refused to take off his Vera Bradley bag, nothing more to do it," [Skylar's mother, Leslie Willis] said.

She said she reviewed the student handbook but did not see a mention to bags or purses. She questions the suspension and the timing.

"Skylar has been going to school since August with that same Vera Bradley bag on, hasn't taken it off. What is the problem?" she asked.

Skylar's brother, Dakota Haight, also spoke out in support of his brother, criticizing the school's concern with Skylar's choice of school bag:

"I've seen girls wear short shorts. Why don't they get kicked out? But then he gets kicked out for a purse? That doesn't make sense. It's not right," Haight said.

 Watch a news report on Skylar's suspension AFTER THE JUMP...

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