- The legislation passes 72-49; it moves next to the Senate
- The bill would allow refusal on the basis of religious beliefs
- It "seeks to enshrine discrimination," says rights group leader
The Kansas House approved on Wednesday a controversial bill that would permit businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples on the basis of religious beliefs.
The legislation, known as House Bill 2453, passed 72-49. It will move next to the state Senate.
The bill reads, in part: "No individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:
"Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement."
Equality Kansas, a rights organization, blasted the vote. It said the bill, if passed, would allow employees of government agencies to treat legal marriages as invalid.
"Kansans across the state are rightly appalled that legislators are spending their efforts to pass yet another piece of legislation that seeks to enshrine discrimination against gay and lesbian people into law," said Sandra Meade, state chair of Equality Kansas. "HB 2453 is a blatant attempt to maintain second-class citizen status for taxpaying gay and lesbian Kansans."
Same-sex marriage is banned in more than 30 states, including Kansas.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 U.S states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
Worldwide, 16 other countries (and parts of Mexico) also have laws allowing same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. Most of the nations are in Europe and South America.