The issue: State-sponsored support of segregation and homophobia via House Bill 2453.
Our view: The potential passage of a bill allowing individuals, groups or businesses to refuse service to gay couples is another black eye for our state, and though dressed as religious liberty, the bill is nothing more than legalized hate and fear.
Somewhere out there, lost among the outcry of intelligent and rational people, Fred Phelps and his Westboro Baptist Church disciples were probably celebrating. After all, the impression the extreme religious protestors have worked so hard to leave on the rest of the country is that all Kansans are radical, backwater hate-mongers. Seventy-two Kansas legislators legitimized that perception Wednesday by voting in favor of House Bill 2453, the ripples of which didn't take long to spread across the national landscape. The measure would allow hotels, restaurants and stores in Kansas to refuse service to gay couples, "if it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs." The bill is now with the Senate. Lawmakers who voted for the bill, described accurately by one national website as an "abomination," certainly did their best to embarrass Kansas by supporting what amounts to state-endorsed fear, discrimination and homophobia. That the bill could potentially be approved and made law is appalling. That it's guised as a protection of religious liberty is an insult to common sense. Please, don't be fooled by the window dressing. The bill has absolutely nothing to do with conservatism, values or faith, no matter what name one calls God, just as this editorial has nothing to do with liberal or conservative political leanings, party affiliation, or religious persecution. It's about right and wrong, and what intelligent, conscientious people, of which our state has a great many, find acceptable from their government. The scariest aspects of HB 2453 is there's no telling how far the discrimination could be taken. The language is ambiguous, the consequences poorly considered. Other states have already taken notice and similar legislation is pending, once again giving Kansas a dubious honor for all the wrong reasons. Today, gay couples are the undesirables. Who and what comes next? When do we start seeing arm bands, serial numbers, registration? It's neither wild nor Orwellian to envision such scenarios playing out. The fact is mainstream society has always struggled with social issues, and the movement of today is gay rights. But, times change and society adjusts. Such progress is rarely accomplished through harsh, overreaching measures like HB 2453. Some considered it good news Friday when Senate leadership said the bill would be "substantially reworked," as one news story described it, in response to criticisms from bill opponents and state business leaders. While that's indeed a positive step, the damage has already been done. As is, the bill is unacceptable. If reworked, it's ineffective, pointless legislation where none was needed to begin with. No, the headline ink has dried, the web stories read, commentaries delivered and opinions formed. "What's the Matter with Kansas," author and historian Thomas Frank asked in his 2004 book. It took a decade, but 72 lawmakers answered.