Kansas House Advances ‘Religious License To Discriminate’ Legislation

"I have a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore."

Kansas state Republicans want to make sure residents can discriminate against LGBT people, so much so that they have advanced a bill that would allow individuals to sue the government if they are deprived of the opportunity to do so. Yesterday, the Kansas House overwhelmingly passed HB 2384, the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which prevents the government from “burdening a person’s exercise of religion”:

Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless such government demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that application of the burden to the person: (1) Is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.

“Compelling governmental interest” shall not include prohibition of a practice or policy of discrimination against individuals in employment relations, in access to free and public accommodations or in housing, except as set forth in K.S.A. 44-1001 et seq., and amendments thereto, and the laws and constitution of the United States.

This is a step beyond the kind of legislation lawmakers have advanced in states like Tennessee that prevent municipalities from establishing protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity. According to this bill, not only would municipalities be inhibited from protecting against anti-LGBT discrimination, but those who do discriminate would become protected and entitled to do so.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Lance Kinzer (R) claimed his bill is merely about the “free exercise of religion,” but confirmed that an apartment owner could use the measure to fight a complaint if he refused to rent to a same-sex couple. It constitutes nothing short of a religious license to discriminate against LGBT people.

The Kansas House has one final vote to take on the legislation before it advances to the Senate, where Republicans also enjoy a supermajority. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has expressed support for the bill, suggesting its inevitability of becoming one of the most wicked anti-LGBT laws in the country.