Kansas House Passes Bill Allowing Discrimination, Senate Fate Uncertain

HB2453: Religious “freedom” respecting marriage (PASSED HOUSE 72-49-3)

This bill would allow any individual or religious entity to refuse to “Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement” or “solemnize any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement” or “treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid.”   In other words, it attempts to legalize discrimination against same-sex couples (and, presumably, against any couple whose relationship someone else doesn’t agree). The bill was sponsored by and promoted by Representative Charles Macheers (R-Overland Park).

The bill was heard by the Kansas House State and Federal Affairs Committee. After debate and a flurry of amendments, the bill passed out of  committee to the Kansas House Floor on voice vote with only minor amendments made. (See Topeka Capital–Journal article) Committee members voting FOR the bill declined to have their committee vote recorded; but those voting AGAINST asked that their votes be recorded. Committee members voting AGAINST the bill were:  Victors, Ghandi, Concannon, Tietze, Ruiz, Perry, Henderson.

On February 11, 2014, the bill was considered by the Kansas House of Representatives in Committee of the Whole. In the Committee of the Whole, Representative Concannon moved to re-refer the bill to Committee. The motion failed on a 50-69 vote.  On vote by the Committee of the Whole whether to advance the bill, the bill moved on to the floor on a 72-42 vote, with 10 abstentions.

On February 12, 2014, the bill was PASSED by a vote of 72-49 with 3 abstentions on final action in the Kansas House:

Yeas (favoring passage): Anthimides, Boldra, Bradford, Brunk, Couture-Lovelady, Campbell, Carlson, Carpenter, Cassidy, Christmann, Claeys, Corbet, Crum, E. Davis, DeGraaf, Dove, Edmonds, Edwards, Esau, Estes, Ewy, Garber, Goico, Gonzalez, Grosserode, Hawkins, Hedke, Henry, Hibbard, Highland, Hildabrand, Hoffman, Houser, Howell, Huebert, Hutton, Jones, Kahrs, Kelley, Kelly, Kiegerl, Kinzer, Kleeb, Lunn, Macheers, Mast, McPherson, Meier, Meigs, Merrick, Moxley, O’Brien, Osterman, Pauls, Peck, Petty, Powell, Proehl, Read, Rhoades, Rothlisberg, Rubin, Ryckman Jr., Ryckman Sr., Schroeder, Schwab, Schwartz, Seiwert, Suellentrop, Sutton, Thompson, Vickrey.

Nays (opposing passage): Alcala, Alford, Ballard, Barker, Becker, Bollier, Bridges, Burroughs, Carlin, Carmichael, Clayton, Concannon, P. Davis, Dierks, Doll, Finch, Finney, Frownfelter, Gandhi, Henderson, Hill, Hineman, Houston, Jennings, Johnson, Kuether, Lane, Lusk, Lusker, Menghini, Perry, Phillips, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Sloan, Sloop, Swanson, Tietze, Todd, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weigel, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, Wolfe Moore.

Absent or not voting: Bruchman, Peterson, Thimesch.

The day after the Kansas House passed the bill, and after a firestorm of criticism directed at the Kansas House from around the world, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle issued a statement to the press release saying that the bill would not be considered by the Kansas Senate in the form passed by the Kansas House. She, and other, Kansas Senate leaders voiced concerns about the bills possible discriminatory effects and that the bill’s language needed to be substantially reworked if it had any chance for consideration. Kansas House leaders defended the bill and on Valentine’s Day promised that the bill was not dead – although it wasn’t clear how the bill could survive the onslaught of the 24 hours post-House-passage. (See Kansas City Star article, “Kansas Senate balks at ‘religious freedom’ bill” and Topeka Capital-Journal article, “Business revolt stalls ‘religious freedom’ bill” and Wichita Eagle-Beacon article, “Same-sex marriage service bill won’t return without major changes“)