Kansas lawmakers advanced a controversial measure on Wednesday that would give anyone in the state the right to deny same-sex couples a host of basic services and benefits on the grounds of “sincerely held religious beliefs.”
By a vote of 72-49, House Bill 2453 received its final stamp of approval in the Republican-controlled state House of Representatives, and now heads to the upper chamber for consideration.
If passed, the measure would allow any individual, business, or state employee to deny gay couples everything from wedding services to unemployment benefits, as long as the reason for doing so involves a strong religious objection to homosexuality.
Supporters say it’s a necessary precaution designed to protect religious liberty in the increasingly likely event that a judge overturns the state’s 2005 voter-approved amendment banning same-sex marriage. But opponents fear the bill’s language invites broad discrimination and gives state employees license to ignore legally valid same-sex marriages.
“Kansans across the state are rightly appalled that legislators are spending their efforts to pass yet another piece of legislation that seeks to enshrine discrimination against gay and lesbian people into law,” state chair of Equality Kansas Sandra Meade said in a statement. “HB 2453 is a blatant attempt to maintain second class citizen status for tax paying gay and lesbian Kansans.”