by Doctor Science
-- they'll just expose themselves to national embarrassment, while being used as a stalking-horse for out-of-state interests.
You may have heard that the Kansas State House of Representatives just overwhelming passed a bill that, in the name of "religious freedom", would permit any individual or entity -- including government agents or agencies to refuse 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,While initial reports suggested that the bill would fly through the state Senate, the Kansas Senate leadership is now saying No Way, saying that it is "too broadly defined", and also "unnecessary."
or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; ... or treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.
They're concerned not just about the huge amount of criticism they've been getting via social media (which is how I heard about it), but also about concerns raised by the business community in this right-to-work state -- because the bill gives an employee's religious scruples (which the employer isn't allowed to ask about) precedence over the employer's intentions. Basically, a clerk can refuse to serve someone *even if the boss wants them to* -- and the boss wouldn't be able to fire them for it.
All this is aside from the fact that the law has "unconstitutional" written all over it, in way that should be obvious to any elected official or other adult, frankly.
Today, even Representatives who voted for the bill are back-tracking:
John Rubin, R-Shawnee, said he would vote for the bill again based on his beliefs on religious liberty, but he said it was unnecessary since the U.S. and state constitutions already offer religious protections. "It's a bit redundant," he said.That's a good question, and reporter Bryan Lowry of the Wichita Eagle has been on the trail of the answer.
"In other words, I think this whole trip was unnecessary, and I question really why the bill even came to the floor for a vote," Rubin said.
Lowry points out that "Rep. Charles Macheers, R-Shawnee, who introduced the bill, has repeatedly said it applies only to wedding celebrations" -- but "Macheers did not write the bill and said he did not know its origin. It was crafted by the American Religious Freedom Program, an organization based in Washington D.C. Similar bills are being considered in Tennessee and South Dakota."
The ARFP is part of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, "dedicated to applying the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to critical issues of public policy", and works with The Becket Fund, a law firm specializing in "religious freedom" cases.
It sounds as though the ARFP provided the text of the Kansas bill, in the same way that the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) writes bills promoting corporate interests for state legislatures to use.
What's striking to me is that the Kansas bill is incompetently written, even though it comes out of a high-powered national group. Macheers seems to be under the impression that it's only about marriage ceremony-related services, but, as Mark Joseph Stern points out at Slate,
A catch-all clause allows businesses and bureaucrats to discriminate against gay people so long as this discrimination is somehow "related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement." (Emphases mine.) This subtle loophole is really just a blank check to discriminate: As long as an individual believes that his service is somehow linked to a gay union of any form, he can legally refuse his services. And since anyone who denies gays service is completely shielded from any charges, no one will ever have to prove that their particular form of discrimination fell within the four corners of the law.I have no idea if the bill is sloppy on purpose, to ensure that it will be challenged up the court system -- possibly providing a way for the Becket Fund to pick up some fees or at least a prominent amicus brief -- or if it's just another instance of the "traditional marriage" people not being very good at their job?
Support for the latter comes from Erick Erickson, who threatens this is what happens when you make us care:
More states should follow Kansas's lead. Faithful adherents of a religion should not be compelled to provide goods and services in the service of sin.-- without even mentioning, or apparently thinking about, the fact that there are obvious constitutional issues involved, and that the law was set up to fail. Live by the echo chamber, die by the echo chamber. But while Erickson (founder of RedState.com, formerly at CNN, now at Fox News) lives and profits by that echo chamber, the Kansas State Legislature are the ones who are going to be dying -- of embarrassment, if they have any self-awareness.