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Kansas bill legalizing refusal of service to same-sex couples passes House but meets friction in Senate

Kansas House Bill 2453 made headlines Wednesday, when the House approved the legislation 72-49. The proposed law, which states that religious individuals, groups and businesses can refuse a list of services “if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender,” elicited responses that both condemned and praised the bill.

“Americans have constitutional rights,” Republican Gov. Sam Brownback told the Topeka Capital-Journal, “among them the right to exercise their religious beliefs and the right for every human life to be treated with respect and dignity.” Brownback told the Journal that he had dedicated himself to fighting for religious liberty, among other basic human rights.

However, Republican senator and Senate President Susan Wagle was one of those who came out against the bill, saying it would meet a less-than-warm welcome in the Senate. “A strong majority of my members support laws that define traditional marriage, protect religious institutions and protect individuals from being forced to violate their personal moral values,” Wagle said in a statement. “However, my members also don’t condone discrimination.”

Wagle suggested, according to the Kansas City Star, that room was open to find common ground on the measure, though her caucus would not support the bill as is. With a Republican majority in the Senate, and in the House, the bill would not likely pass without GOP support.

State Rep. Charles Macheers maintains, the Wichita Eagle reports, that the wording was never meant to imply discrimination. The scope of the bill, he says, was not meant to go beyond the realm of marriage and aimed to protect religious freedoms and varied viewpoints. “The bill is neutral on the marriage issue,” Macheers said Thursday, saying that similar bills had been passed in other states that had allowed same-sex marriages. “It just gives a measure of protection for both sides of the marriage issue.”

Kansas is one of 33 states that currently do not allow same-sex marriages.

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