Gov. Sam Brownback really does not like the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent ruling allowing gays and lesbians to marry. We knew he would have trouble swallowing the new law of the land — and the fact Kansas was included in this more perfect union.
But we thought he would wait until the American Legislative Exchange Council drafted a piece of model legislation about religious liberties, have an appointed legislator introduce it, skip the committee process, pass both chambers, and then sign it into law. Even this convenient and fool-proof procedure apparently would take too long for the governor.
No priest was going to marry a same-sex couple or some baker forced to make a wedding cake for the same pair on Brownback’s watch. Not without a fight, anyway.
On Tuesday, Brownback signed Executive Order 15-05. Its intent is to protect religious individuals and groups from being penalized by the state if they happen to discriminate against married gays and lesbians.
The order didn’t state it that way, of course. It is titled the “Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom.” And the order is based on premises such as “the recent imposition of same sex marriage … poses potential infringements on the civil right of religious liberty” and encouraging tolerance for religious beliefs about marriage that will “contribute to a more respectful, diverse and peaceful society.”
What it does, effective immediately, is to prevent clergy from being sued if they refuse to officiate a same-sex wedding. The same protection is given a religious organization that won’t rent its hall or provide chairs for a same-sex reception.
We don’t believe anybody will take issue with such provisions.
As Micah Kubic, the new executive director of the Kansas ACLU, said in a statement: “Religious institutions have never been required to marry anyone outside their faith traditions.”
It is the last specific protection listed in the order that puts the governor on thin ice: “The State Government shall not take any discriminatory action against a religious organization that provides social services or charitable services, which acts or intends to act upon sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction described in Section 1.”
That covers every state contract awarded to a religiously affiliated adoption agency, food pantry, nursery, daycare provider, foster care agency, hospital, preschool, homeless shelter, nursing home, assisted-living center or other entity providing critical health or social services. In short, even though these designated state agents receive tax dollars to provide a service to the public — they can be selective about which members of the public they serve.
And the state is prohibited from canceling or altering contracts, denying licenses or changing the tax status of a group or individual who chooses not to give “recognition” to a same-sex married couple because that group or individual’s religious beliefs are in conflict with the union.
Gov. Brownback continues to amaze with his brazen disregard for laws he doesn’t favor. Attempting to undermine the nation’s highest court mere weeks after its landmark equality ruling is par for the course. He has not displayed much respect for the state’s highest courts either.
Unfortunately, this outrageous executive order now becomes law in the State of Kansas. Shy of public outcry forcing the governor to change his mind, the only way this discriminatory act will be undone is through further litigation.
Religious freedom is not under attack in the Sunflower State. To believe so is to accept blindly a straw-man argument. State-sanctioned discrimination against the LGBT community, however, is very real. Brownback made sure of that with his pen Tuesday.
Editorial by Patrick Lowry
Editorial by Patrick Lowry