Segregation – along with slavery and other abhorrent forms of racism – is undoubtedly one of the most horrible aspects of our country’s history. And although this is definitely something that should remain in the past, it is being reintroduced in Kansas; but this time, race is not the discriminatory factor.
The bill that has easily passed through the state’s Republican House of Representatives, and will presumably easily pass through the Senate and get signed into law by the governor, will legalize the segregation of gays and straights in virtually every aspect of life. The law cites “religious liberty” as its cause, and when passed, 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.” This means that companies can continue to fire workers for being gay, stores can deny gay couples goods or services, gay couples can be ejected from hotels – the list goes on, and on, and on.
What if the gay couple sues for discrimination? Well, they will lose. Not only that, but they will also have to pay the attorney fees of their opponent.
Sound shocking? There’s more. The law even extends to government employees. So, if a gay couple calls the police, an officer will be permitted to deny them service if homosexuality interferes with his or her religious beliefs. Public parks, pools, the DMV – all of these places that are run under the Kansas government could be off limits to gay couples. While the law’s advocates’ claim that it will only apply to gay couples, it is not clear that it can’t be applied to gay individuals as well, as if it couldn’t get any worse.
In support of the bill, Republican state Rep. Charles Macheers stated that “discrimination is horrible. It’s hurtful. … It has no place in civilized society, and that’s precisely why we’re moving this bill.” He’s right, at least on one count: discrimination is an abomination. Why he sees this bill as a solution to that problem is mystifying, as this bill will no doubt make the lives of countless citizens of Kansas absolutely unbearable.