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Kansas debates protections for gay marriage foes

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- Legislators are reopening a debate on whether Kansas should enact special legal protections for people, groups and businesses opposing gay marriage for religious reasons.

A Senate panel was taking testimony Thursday from legal scholars on whether existing state laws protect opponents of gay-marriage from being fined or sued for refusing to provide goods or services for same-sex wedding ceremonies or marriages.

The Senate Judiciary Committee hearing follows last month's House passage of what proponents called "religious freedom" legislation. Opponents said it would encourage discrimination against gays and lesbians, and Senate leaders declared it dead.

The Kansas Constitution bars gay marriage, but the House bill anticipated that federal courts could invalidate the ban.

Senate leaders have said the Judiciary Committee is having an informational hearing and isn't working on new legislation.