Thursday, November 27, 2014

HAWVER: Kansas still fighting gay marrieds

By MARTIN HAWVER, At the Rail | 2/10/2014

Gay marriage opponents — some churches and apparently wedding cake bakers — have stirred one of the strangest bills with which Kansas legislators have dealt in years.

The issue is relatively simple. Gay marriage is not recognized in Kansas, even if the couple has gone to a state that allows gay marriage, wed and returned to Kansas. When that couple returns to our state to live and work, and presumably do that “consumption spending” that will balance the state budget, they won’t necessarily get the same government services that boy-girl married couples get under terms of the bill.

Gay marriage opponents — some churches and apparently wedding cake bakers — have stirred one of the strangest bills with which Kansas legislators have dealt in years.

The issue is relatively simple. Gay marriage is not recognized in Kansas, even if the couple has gone to a state that allows gay marriage, wed and returned to Kansas. When that couple returns to our state to live and work, and presumably do that “consumption spending” that will balance the state budget, they won’t necessarily get the same government services that boy-girl married couples get under terms of the bill.

Now, if a private firm doesn’t want to deal with same-sex married couples — sell them those wedding, or probably more accurately, anniversary party cakes — that’s one thing.

But if an employee of a governmental entity — that’s the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government, and any and all agencies, boards, commissions, departments, districts, authorities, or other entities, subdivisions or parts whatsoever of state and local government — doesn’t care to deal with gay married couples for whatever reason, that’s something else.

The key to the bill the House is considering is that gay marrieds can’t sue the government or its agents for discrimination. There’s no state law — apparently only an ordinance in Lawrence, of course — that prohibits discrimination against gays (single or married) that would give rise to lawsuits for discrimination.

So, cakes aside, it really appears to come down to the simple issue that Kansas doesn’t recognize gay marriage, and isn’t likely to unless or until the state’s constitutional prohibition of gay marriage is repealed or overridden by the U.S. Supreme Court.

That’s the landscape.

The bill says that if a government employee, who has sincere religious or other convictions against gay marriage, refuses to perform his or her job if it involves dealing with gay marrieds, the agency is supposed to find someone in the agency who will, “as long as it doesn’t cause undue hardship.”

Governmental agencies, of course, can’t ask employees’ religion or whether they have convictions that would prevent them from doing the job they were hired for if it involves dealing with gay marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangements.

And we doubt whether a governmental employer can require those workers to wear a tag or maybe just one of those colorful plastic wrist bracelets so gay marrieds can move to the next window to pay their property taxes without a fuss. Wonder what happens if the manager of a governmental agency has those sincerely held convictions?

Now, this isn’t going to come up a lot, we presume. But when it does, well, could it be impossible in some places for gay marrieds to get their dog licensed or the water turned on at their home?

Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. Visit his Web site at www.hawvernews.com

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