Cooler heads and sanity finally got some traction in Kansas to put the brakes on a bill that would have legalized gay-bashing.
A bill that would have allowed individuals to refuse to provide business services to same-sex couples in Kansas because of religious beliefs met a surprising and quick end last week when conservative senators sided with liberal advocates in saying that the measure promoted discrimination.
The bill had passed the House, 72 to 49, last Wednesday and it appeared that it might also easily sail through the Senate. Both chambers are controlled by conservative Republicans who in recent years have passed some of the most conservative legislation in the country, whether on gun control, abortion rights or taxes.
Susan Wagle, a conservative Republican who is president of the Kansas Senate, raised opposition to the House measure, saying she had “grown concerned about the practical impact of the bill” and “my members don’t condone discrimination.”
Ms. Wagle was backed by Senator Jeff King, the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, who said he would not hold hearings on the House bill. Instead, Mr. King said, his committee would hold hearings on the broader topic of religious freedom in Kansas and explore whether the Legislature needed to take any further steps to shore up those protections.
Much as I would like to think that the turnaround was based on the realization that the law would trample on human and civil rights, it actually came down to the fact that it would be both bad for business in the state and that they would also spend a lot of taxpayer dollars defending the indefensible.
Opponents included the Kansas Chamber of Commerce, which said that the measure could lead to increased costs for businesses. The chamber took particular exception to a provision in the bill that said that if an employee of the government or “other nonreligious entity” objected to providing a service based on religious beliefs, the employer would have to find another employee to fill in or find some other way to provide the service.
Businesses were “not interested in getting into these guessing games as to someone’s intent and whether a strongly held religious belief is legitimate or not,” said Mike O’Neal, the president of the chamber.
Don’t call the battle won. The proponents will try again with something more cleverly worded and just as insidious. These people never give up.