Monday, December 22, 2014

JONES: Legislation is about liberty, not bigotry

By KEVIN JONES, The Playground | 2/21/2014

There has been noise over the recent passage of House Bill 2453 (Religious Liberties Bill) out of the Kansas House and with that, a substantial amount of wrong information.

Put simply, this bill protects personal liberty of conscience.

There has been noise over the recent passage of House Bill 2453 (Religious Liberties Bill) out of the Kansas House and with that, a substantial amount of wrong information.

Put simply, this bill protects personal liberty of conscience.

HB 2453 was written specifically to safeguard individuals, nonprofits, churches and small businesses from being sued or placed under legal obligation if they, because of issues of conscience, feel they cannot offer marriage-related services, including adoption and foster care, to someone.

Proponents of same-sex marriage have brought this issue to the forefront in many states by requesting same-sex marriage-related services from individuals, churches, nonprofits and small businesses which they identify as not supportive of legalizing same-sex marriage. By suing them for declining to provide these services, it allows proponents to bypass public debate and fast track the issue to the courts.

Once these cases reach the courts, those decisions set precedent. For example, Catholic Charities agencies in several states are being placed in a position of either shutting down or acting contrary to their core values in providing adoption services to same-sex couples. A florist in Washington State, who had a cordial rapport with regular customers, even as he knew they were in a same-sex relationship, was sued when he declined to serve as florist for their wedding ceremony. His legal battle has been untenable.

The ultimate goal of this non-legislative strategy is, of course, to overturn state statutes by winning in the courts through unelected judges rather than work through the legislative process.

The one and only provision HB 2453 offers is protection for individuals, churches, nonprofits and small businesses from being forced to choose between court, conscience, or closing up shop.

The bill is a preventative measure to keep this strategy from taking hold in Kansas as it has in other states. The state employee proviso protects someone from losing their job if, in the future, a federal court ruling were to supersede state law — a justice of the peace, for example.

In all cases, kindness and consideration trumps everything, but kindness should be a two-way street. Why would anyone who cares about tolerance wish to force others to act against conscience? If the goal is a wedding venue or flowers, there are florists aplenty; but that’s not the endgame. The goal is to ignore separation of powers and push agendas through the courts rather than by rule of law — similar to what took place with Roe v. Wade.

HB 2453 provides no right for anyone to deny general services to, or otherwise discriminate against, anyone based upon sexual orientation or identity. The bill passed the House, 72 to 49, including “yes” votes from several Democrat legislators.

Suggestions that the bill would allow a restaurant to turn away customers or permit law enforcement officers to renege on their duties or restrict anyone from getting “their dog licensed or the water turned on in their home” are red herrings which derive from three camps: Those who understand the bill, but hope to advance the endgame of overturning Kansas’ legal definition of marriage; those who do not understand the bill, but continue to pass along inaccuracies; and a third group—who know better, but prefer to sway with the wind rather than take a stand one way or the other.

The entire text of House Bill 2453 can be found on the Kansas legislature website. Visit http://kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/measures/hb2453/ and go to the “Bill Versions” section. In the table, click on the “As Amended by House Committee” pdf file in the “Documents” column.

Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, represents Franklin County and the 5th District in the Kansas House. Email him at kevin.jones@house.ks.gov or call (785) 296-6287.

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