Gov. Sam Brownback issued an executive order Tuesday prohibiting state government from taking action against clergy members or religious organizations that deny services to couples based on religious beliefs. Among other things, the order is intended to protect religious organizations that provide adoption services for the state from having to place children with gay couples if that conflicts with their beliefs.
Even the fiercest anti-gay officials must realize at a certain level a Supreme Court ruling leaves them few options. When five justices brought marriage equality to the nation two weeks ago, the law of the land came into focus -- in the United States, couples enjoy equal marriage rights, whether the couples or straight or gay.
The challenge for conservative Republican officials is no longer how to prevent same-sex unions; that fight is over. Rather, the next phase is figuring how to permit at least some discrimination going forward.
The Wichita Eagle reported late yesterday, of example, on a new policy from Kansas' Republican governor.
The full text of the executive order is online here.
In a public statement, the governor said his order protects "Kansas clergy and religious organizations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs."
At the surface, such a policy seems wildly unnecessary. There's been some chatter in far-right circles about ministers being forced to officiate at same-sex weddings, but the argument has always been ridiculous -- the government has never been able to dictate to clergy which kind of services they must perform. The recent Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality doesn't change this at all.
But this isn't just about wedding ceremonies; it's about much more.
Kansas' ACLU, for example, told the Wichita Eagle the order means "a homeless shelter that received a state contract or grant could refuse family housing to a gay couple with a child, or a foster care agency could refuse to place a child in their custody with the child's family member just because the family member was in a same-sex relationship – and the state could not require them to treat all families equally."
The same report quoted a University of Kansas lecturer who said that because Brownback's order doesn't define "religious organization," it's an open question as to whether the policy applies to religiously owned businesses along the lines of Hobby Lobby.
As one culture-war fight ends, another begins.