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Same-sex marriage bill at forefront

Later this year, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals could strike down Kansas' 2005 constitutional amendment protecting traditional marriage.

If the 10th Circuit finds the U.S. Constitution prohibits amendments protecting traditional marriage, then Kansas immediately will be forced to recognize same-sex unions.

With that in mind, the Kansas House last week passed a bill that protects business owners from being penalized if they choose not to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony. The purpose of the bill, HB 2453, is to protect individuals and private business owners from being forced by the government to provide services, goods or accommodations that conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

If the 10th Circuit Court does nothing, the constitutional amendment stands. However, if the court strikes it down, these provisions would provide legal protection for conscientious objectors of same-sex marriage based on religious beliefs.

Many states that have legalized same-sex marriage have these protections in law. States such as Maryland, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, New York, Washington, Vermont, Hawaii and Delaware legalized gay marriage and also offered religious freedom protections for those with sincerely held religious beliefs.

Small business owners have been targeted in states without this safeguard. There was a wedding cake maker in Colorado, a photographer in New Mexico and a florist in Washington who did not wish to participate in a wedding ceremony because of their religious beliefs. Without the protections included in HB 2453, they were subjected to legal action because of their beliefs.

The Kansas Catholic Conference is one of the main proponents of the legislation. The Catholic Church is concerned about legal action if their priests are asked to perform a same-sex wedding ceremony or to rent out its sanctuary. Catholic Charities agencies in several states are faced with either shutting down or acting contrary to their core values in providing adoption services to same-sex couples. Under this bill, private business owners and religious organizations cannot be punished by government or civil action if they decline to participate in a marriage ceremony that conflicts with their religious convictions. Government and non-religious entities must accommodate customers, regardless of their position on the marriage issue.

The Senate has committed to look into the bill to clarify the intent of the Legislature and make sure the language narrowly is focused to protect against unintended consequences. That is the legislative process at work. The perception and misinformation about the intention of this bill are unfortunate; however, the religious freedom protections are necessary.

Rep. Travis Couture-Lovelady, R-Palco, represents the 110th District.

travis.couture-lovelady@house.ks.gov