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LGBT Activists Stage Valentine's Day Protests In Arkansas, Kansas: VIDEO

Kansas

It used to be a tradition for same-sex couples to protest marriage bans on Valentine's Day — often by requesting licenses from clerk's offices. 

But now that marriage equality has arrived in 37 states, the focus has shifted. 

Instead of seeking legal recognition of their relationships, LGBT people are demanding that they be protected against discrimination based on who they are and who they love. 

On Saturday, activists in Arkansas and Kansas spent part of their Valentine's Day protesting decisions by Republican governors that effectively sanction anti-LGBT discrimination. 

In Kansas, nearly 1,000 people gathered outside the statehouse to protest Gov. Sam Brownback's decision to rescind an executive order protecting LGBT state employees. The Kansas rally featured some colorful signs and costumes. 

In Arkansas, about 70 people gathered outside the governor's mansion to call on Gov. Asa Hutchinson to veto SB 202, which would prohibit cities from passing LGBT protections. 

View more images and watch news reports on the two rallies, AFTER THE JUMP ... 

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

Fox.Terry

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 ... 

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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.


Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback Refusing to Grant Marriage Rights to Gay Couples

Kansas

Despite marriage equality having already commenced in many counties in Kansas, GOP state officials are continuing to drag their heels in defiance, with Governor Sam Brownback announcing today that he will not allow any state recognition of same-sex unions. 

NPR station KCUR reports:

BrownbackBrownback said Thursday that he won’t offer any of the benefits heterosexual couples get, such as name changes on a driver’s license or employee benefits for gay and lesbian state workers.

“There is still considerable legal ambiguity on the topic of same-sex marriage,” said Eileen Hawley, a Brownback spokeswoman. “Once that ambiguity is gone, the governor will direct state agencies to comply with applicable laws.” 

The Wichita Eagle adds:

Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, an LGBT rights organization, said it was outrageous for state agencies to not treat legally married same-sex couples the same as they would newly married heterosexual couples.

“These are legal marriages legally performed in the state of Kansas,” Witt said.

Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt told the Associated Press on Wednesday that his vigorous defense of the state’s gay marriage ban is designed to get a final U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether such bans are constitutional.

While things get sorted out, Equality Kansas has a list of counties that are issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Check out the list here


Kansas Governor Sam Brownback Vows to Continue Defending State's Gay Marriage Ban Despite SCOTUS Ruling

Brownback

Despite the Supreme Court denying Kansas' request for a stay on a lower court ruling striking down the state's gay marriage ban yesterday, Governor Sam Brownback has said he will continue defending the state's ban, the Associated Press reports:

After the U.S. Supreme Court ruling, the governor issued a statement saying he took an oath to support the state constitution.

He added that he would review the decision and consult with state Attorney General Derek Schmidt on “how best we continue those efforts.”

In related news, marriage equality remains in limbo in Kansas:

Derek schmidtSchmidt [right] says that decision applies only in Douglas, a northeastern Kansas county, and Sedgwick, in south-central Kansas, where the court clerks are defendants. The American Civil Liberties Union contends the ruling applies in all 105 counties.

The legal situation in Kansas is complicated by another case before the Kansas Supreme Court, which Schmidt filed last month. He persuaded the Kansas court to block marriage licenses for same-sex couples, at least while his case is heard.

Marriage licenses in Kansas are issued by district court clerks' offices after a mandatory three-day wait. In Johnson County, Court Clerk Sandra McCurdy said about 70 applications from same-sex couples are pending.

"Until I hear something from the Kansas Supreme Court, I'm not issuing any marriage licenses," McCurdy said.

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond, Virginia, law professor, said other clerks are likely to react the same way "out of an abundance of caution."


Kansas Candidates For Governor Debate Gay Marriage: VIDEO

Kansas

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and his Democratic challenger Paul Davis sparred on Monday night over the issue of gay marriage. Following the Supreme Court's decision to let stand a 10th Circuit ruling invalidating bans on same-sex marriage, a ruling that effects Kansas as the Sunflower State is under the 10th Circuit's jurisdiction, a judge ordered county clerks to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples seeking them. However, that order was put on hold by the state's Supreme Court. With a hearing scheduled for November 6, the fate of the state's 2005 voter-approved marriage ban hangs in the balance. As Talking Points Memo reports, Davis commented that "there is nothing he can do with regards to gay marriage" while Brownback attacked him for not being willing to defend the ban:

Davis was a lawmaker when the Legislature debated [the marriage ban], and he said Monday that he did not support the constitutional amendment because he believed it would have an adverse effect on the welcoming image the state has had for decades. But he added that the people of Kansas decided by a significant majority to put the prohibition in the constitution, and he respects that decision.

"The fact of the matter is that at this particular time there is nothing I can do, there is nothing Gov. Brownback can do to impact this issue," Davis said. "It is in the court system."

Brownback noted that 70 percent of Kansans voted for the amendment.

"There is something that Rep. Davis and I can do on this and that is as governor defend our constitution, and he is not even saying whether he would defend our constitution where our people have voted on this issue," Brownback said.

Brownback also held a rally Monday against gay marriage.

The pair met again Tuesday night for a second debate and again the question of marriage equality arose, with each candidate taking similar postures. 

Watch the second debate for yourself (where the subject of marriage comes up at about the 31:30 mark), AFTER THE JUMP...

Continue reading "Kansas Candidates For Governor Debate Gay Marriage: VIDEO" »


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