Being gay in Kansas has never been easy for social reasons, but social norms pale in comparison to what the state legislature is plotting.
Last Wednesday, the Kansas House of Representatives approved a bill that, in essence, allows employers to discriminate against homosexuals. Gay people can be fired, denied a job or even kicked out of their apartments, totally legally, under this legislation.
It all started when the city of Salina decided to enact an ordinance declaring that it is improper to discriminate based on sexual preference or gender identity. Under state law, it’s illegal to discriminate based on race, familial status, religion, color, disability, ancestry or national origin. Sexual preference seems to be the only one left out.
It makes sense, right? Surely we as a nation, much less a state, have advanced enough to know that there’s no excuse for discrimination of any sort.
Apparently that’s not the way that 89 of our state representatives think. Of the 116 representatives in the House who voted on the bill, only 27 had the common sense to vote against it.
It’s disgustingly titled the “Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act,” which makes it sound like something that’s helping instead of an ill-advised manifesto of hatred toward a group of people. What the bill does is to make illegal any attempt to add to the list of things you can’t discriminate against.
The rationale is equally abhorrent. Quoted in the Salina Journal, Representative Tom Arpke of Salina voted in favor of the KPRFA because, basically, he hasn’t met a lot of gay people. “I don’t think we need to add protections for people that are a small part of the population,” he said.
Hey, Tom, did you know that black people only make up about six percent of the population of Kansas? Imagine yourself saying that exact sentence again, but in a racial context. Does it still not seem insanely bigoted?
Sadly, this action has gotten Kansas a lot of attention from around the nation. The Huffington Post and the Boston Edge, to name a few, have published articles slamming the new bill as insensitive and “anti-gay.” But that’s not even what’s most galling about the bill.
Even though it’s embarrassing for the reputation of the state of Kansas, it’s even worse for people who live here. I know I don’t support it, and I haven’t met a single person who does. Our legislature, as far as I can tell, has acted in conflict with the wishes of its constituents. Nobody wanted this.
The only good news is that we have a bicameral legislature, and the state Senate hasn’t yet seen this bill. It’s possible that the Senate will reject it like the rubbish that it is, leaving it to die without ever becoming a law.
If you’re as outraged by this bill as most people are, the best thing to do is to contact your state senator to urge him not to support this bill as it moves into the Senate.
Ellis County’s senator is Allen Schmidt, and you can reach him at 785-296-7366 or at Allen.Schmidt@senate.ks.gov. If you’re not from Ellis County, you can find your senator at kslegislature.org.
We need to prove that we don’t support this bill. We can show that the people of Kansas are far more reasonable than the officials who represent us.