Monday, February 17, 2014

Hundreds protest ‘religious freedoms’ bill at Kansas Statehouse

By SCOTT ROTHSCHILD, The Lawrence Journal-World

TOPEKA — "Shock," "fear" and "embarrassment" were among the words protesters used Sunday to describe their reaction to legislation that would allow Kansans to cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples.

"This is a time when we need to take a stand," said the Rev. Peter Luckey, senior pastor of the Plymouth Congregational Church in Lawrence.

Luckey said he couldn't believe the House would approve such legislation. He said people who disagree about whether same-sex marriages should be recognized "understand that discrimination is wrong" and called the bill hurtful and mean-spirited.

Supporters contend the bill, approved 72-49 by the House, is needed in case a federal court strikes down Kansas' constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, as has happened in other states.

Last week, Senate leaders put the brakes on the bill, saying it went beyond protecting religious beliefs and would have allowed businesses to refuse to serve gays and lesbians. A number of leading businesses and business groups also voiced opposition.

Although Senate GOP leaders said they wouldn't consider HB 2453, they said they would propose alternative legislation to protect religious beliefs.

During Sunday's protest, which was organized by the gay rights advocacy group Equality House of Topeka, participants formed two lines behind signs labeled "Second Class Citizens" and "Straight People." The lines went up the south steps of the Capitol.

"We don't judge others," said Dee Moore, of Topeka. "We think all are God's children."

Jeremy Morgan, also a Topeka resident, said when he first heard about the bill, it frightened him that he and his spouse, who were legally married in Iowa, could be denied services.

"We don't want to be humiliated. We want to be treated like everybody else," Morgan said.