Check this spot on Sundays for a few quick hits about what’s driving the debate in the Legislature.
This week’s edition focuses on HB 2453, which sought to allow public or private employees to refuse service based on religious views about marriage. Proponents billed it as safeguarding religious freedoms and opponents said it sanctioned discrimination by government employees.
“Every day that legislators realize that some of these bills are just outright discrimination being written into state statute is a good day, whether it’s Valentine’s Day or any other day.”
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— Thomas Witt, spokesman for the LGBT rights group Equality Kansas, reacting Friday to Senate President Susan Wagle's announcement that the Senate will not consider the bill in its current form.
“We don't have a position as an organization on whether same-sex marriage is wise or unwise as a matter of policy or law. We don't have position on it at all. ... We deal with issues of religious freedom.”
— Tim Schultz, state legislative policy director for American Religious Freedom Program, the organization that drafted the bill, on its intent
That’s the attorney general’s estimate of what the state could spend to defend HB 2453 against court challenges in fiscal year 2015.
Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, outmaneuvered everyone at the Capitol, hitting the brakes hard on HB 2453 after it passed the House on Wednesday. She voiced concerns that the bill potentially discriminates against the LGBT community and also harms the business community and made it clear that the Senate would not consider it in its current form. The move won her praise from both Equality Kansas and the Kansas Chamber of Commerce.
House Republicans, on the other hand, scrambled to do damage control. And House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, faced criticism from the LGBT community for calling the bill a “distraction” and not speaking out against it on the House floor. Friday, his office issued a statement that said, "I voted NO on House Bill 2453 because it was an offensive attempt to legalize discrimination.” It also said the state should focus on bigger issues like jobs and schools.
Senate Vice President Jeff King, R-Independence, and the Senate Judiciary Committee, which he chairs, will have to decide whether to change the bill or let it die.
— Bryan Lowry
For more legislative news, go to www.kansas.com/politics and follow @BryanLowry3 on Twitter.