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SPOTLIGHT
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Religious liberty

Published on -1/31/2014, 9:39 AM

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In 2005, Kansas voters overwhelmingly passed a constitutional amendment that restricted marriage in this state to be between one man and one woman. Since that time, almost 100,000 one-man, one-woman Kansas couples have divorced.

Perhaps the argument that same-sex couples threaten the sanctity of holy matrimony should be laid to rest.

While arguing in favor of the gay-marriage ban, then-Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline said if courts can allow gay marriage, they also can limit lawmakers from attempting to prohibit polygamy and incest. He might as well have thrown bestiality in there as well, as most opponents of gay marriage usually list that second in the domino effect.

Has the moral decay heralded by proponents of the ban been lessened by the law? We suppose it's how one actually defines that moral decay. We suspect those proponents were equating the numbers of gay, lesbian, transgender and questioning Kansans with the decay.

The ban has done nothing to decrease the number of same-sex couples statewide. All it has done is allow the state to legally discriminate against them. There is no other way to describe how heterosexual couples are allowed all the rights and incidents of marriage while homosexual couples are not.

That is about to change.

Federal judges in Utah and Oklahoma recently have struck down same-sex marriage bans in those states, which fall under the same jurisdiction Kansas does -- the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver. The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which states "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States," was cited in both decisions.

Kansas lawmakers are working feverishly to put different barriers in place in hopes the discriminatory practices can continue. House Bill 2453, described as an act "concerning religious freedoms with respect to marriage," would make it legal for any individual or religious entity to deny or refuse "any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges" to anybody preparing to celebrate marriage, domestic partnerships, civil unions or similar arrangements. If one's religious convictions are sincere enough, they wouldn't even have to "treat any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement as valid."

Anybody believe they're thinking about marriages between one man and one woman? We don't. To top it off, the legislation even denies legal recourse to the aggrieved party.

Supporters of the bill say they're trying to protect the religious liberties of individuals who find homosexuality offensive.

"Religious freedom has always meant the freedom to live one's faith and to bring your religiously informed moral judgments into the public square," said Michael Schuttloffel, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference.

Bring those moral judgments to the public square. We encourage it. For it is in the public marketplace of ideals that truth emerges. One of those truths will be one can't impose their religious viewpoint upon others. It makes no sense to us a shop-owner could sell invitations, bake a cake, or take photographs of an opposite-sex couple -- then turn around and deny the same service to a same-sex couple. There is no difference between that scenario and water fountains for whites only.

Kansas lawmakers should be able to read the writing on the wall. The federal Defense of Marriage Act has no defense any longer before the U.S. Supreme Court. That same body, the highest court in the land, has struck down federal bans on benefits for gay married couples.

There is that 14th Amendment, which also prohibits any state from denying "any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

Or legislators in Topeka simply could look at the Kansas Bill of Rights. It begins with: "All men are possessed of equal and inalienable natural rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." All men.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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