Jim Crow for Gays in Kansas


On Tuesday of this week the Kansas House of Representatives passed a bill that is everything the headline implies and worse.

I don’t think we’ve seen anything quite like this the last half century.

When passed, the new law will allow any individual, group, or private business to refuse to serve gay couples if “it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs.” Private employers can continue to fire gay employees on account of their sexuality. Stores may deny gay couples goods and services because they are gay. Hotels can eject gay couples or deny them entry in the first place. Businesses that provide public accommodations—movie theaters, restaurants—can turn away gay couples at the door. And if a gay couple sues for discrimination, they won’t just lose; they’ll be forced to pay their opponent’s attorney’s fees. [...]

In addition to barring all anti-discrimination lawsuits against private employers, the new law permits government employees to deny service to gays in the name of “religious liberty.” This is nothing new, but the sweep of Kansas’ statute is breathtaking. Any government employee is given explicit permission to discriminate against gay couples—not just county clerks and DMV employees, but literally anyone who works for the state of Kansas. If a gay couple calls the police, an officer may refuse to help them if interacting with a gay couple violates his religious principles. State hospitals can turn away gay couples at the door and deny them treatment with impunity. Gay couples can be banned from public parks, public pools, anything that operates under the aegis of the Kansas state government.

There is absolutely no way this will survive a challenge in federal court, but apparently the Kansas Senate is poised to pass the House bill and Governor Sam Brownback is expected to sign it into law.

The most comically absurd thing about this is that the bill’s proponents argue this is actually an anti-discrimination bill because it protects the religious from marauding gay hordes.

What’s the matter with Kansas?