In the 90s, Colorado had the dubious honor of being known as the Hate State. This occurred after three counties passed ordinances prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and the voters promptly passed Amendment 2, prohibiting the extension of such employment protection. That Amendment was eventually struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of the United States in Romer v. Evans, but not until after the usual years of litigation. It took a while but Colorado eventually rid itself of the odious Hate State moniker.
Every now and again a state will either propose or ponder legislation that makes it a potential candidate as the new Hate State but none have done anything quite egregious enough to be awarded with the title … until now.
Kansas, enter stage
This week, the Kansas House passed a bill that the Senate is also expected to pass and the ever-righteous Governor Brownback will undoubtedly sign with glee. This bill allows employees of public and private businesses/entities to refuse service to gay customers if the employee feels it would violate their religious freedom. Lest you think I’m overstating the text and application of the law, please feel free to go here and read it: Kansas Hate Bill.
I think my favorite part is where the bill says that an employer must provide another employee to wait on the gays if an employee refuses, “or shall otherwise ensure that the requested service is provided, if it can be done without undue hardship to the employer.” (emphasis provided). So, if it’s a business
full of nothing but bigots whose employees all have religious objections to waiting on gay customers, guess the gays are out of luck. Jodi’s family is from Kansas and there is a particular Italian restaurant there I adore. I really hope it has at least one server whose religious freedoms are not offended by serving me a plate of spaghetti.
But there are so many possibilities to ponder for this new law. I wonder what happens if someone working voting polls has a religious objection to gay people voting. Just not going to let the gays vote at that precinct? Or wait, I have an idea, why don’t we just harken back to the enlightened ideas of the Founding Fathers who counted African-Americans as 3/5 of a person. Using that theory you could just count each ballot submitted by a gay person as 3/5 of a vote. I mean, come on Kansas, if we’re going to do this, let’s go all in.
There is absolutely no question businesses will put up signs saying “No Gays Allowed” or “Gays not Welcome” or “Gays not Served Here.” How in the hell are we supposed to take our annual Christmas trip with our daughter to see Jodi’s family knowing we might see some of that?! I know what will happen. The Divine Miss M will see it, likely go off on the business person or unfortunate employee before we can drag her away and then get in the car and sob. Also in that vein though, what if we are in an accident or for any reason need police or medical help and happen to draw a bigoted officer, hospital employee, ambulance personnel while we’re there? What then? Based on the wording of the Kansas statute, any of those could refuse to serve M as well. She’d just be guilty by association.
When I first read that this bill passed the Kansas House and would likely be law, I was annoyed and rolled my eyes. Later, the more I thought about it, the more infuriated I became. One Representative stated the following on the House floor:
“Discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill. …. There have been times throughout history where people have been persecuted for their religious beliefs because they were unpopular. This bill provides a shield of protection for that.”
Oh, the irony. But let’s look at what he said. People have been persecuted for their religious beliefs? Yes. Yes, they have. The Crusades come to mind, for example. Jewish people during the Holocaust. This world has seen centuries of horrific religious persecution. Please let’s not insult the historical and personal tragedy of true persecution by conflating it with having to sell me a candy bar at a gas station.
Some have tried to spin this law as only allowing the refusal of services related to the celebration of a gay wedding or similar joining. This bill is not so limited. Specifically, if contrary to religious beliefs, an employee does not have to
Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement;
“related to OR related to the celebration of any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement.” It is NOT limited to a celebration of a gay relationship in any form. It is any service related to any such relationship. That is absurdly ambiguous, as codified bigotry usually is.
If you’re going to be hypocritical bigots, then don’t add dishonesty to it as well. This bill has nothing to do with protecting religious freedom. The purpose of this law is to legalize homophobia. It’s about institutionalizing the last acceptable form of discrimination. Well, congratulations Kansas, the Hate State moniker is all yours.