Gay-rights advocates lashed out at Democratic gubernatorial candidate Paul Davis on Wednesday, saying he showed only tepid opposition to a bill that would give people the right, based on their religious beliefs, to refuse service to gay and lesbian couples.
Davis, of Lawrence, voted against the measure, which the House passed 72-49 Wednesday, sending it to the Senate.
The bill would prohibit government sanctions or discrimination lawsuits over faith-based refusals to recognize same-sex unions or to provide goods, services, accommodations or employment benefits to couples.
Supporters argued that the bill would protect the rights of Kansans to adhere to their religious beliefs, even if federal courts strike down the state’s ban on same-sex unions.
Davis, the House minority leader, issued a statement Tuesday saying the bill “goes out of its way to ignore the critical challenges families are facing right now.” The statement did not mention the bill’s contents or deal with critics’ main concern, that the measure would encourage widespread discrimination against gays and lesbians.
“Every day we spend on issues like this is one day less this Legislature and governor has to tackle the real, growing crises at hand,” said Davis, who is trying to woo unaffiliated voters and GOP moderates to his camp.
On Wednesday, Equality Kansas state chairwoman Sandra Meade decried Davis’ response to a “blatant attempt to maintain second-class citizen status” for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Kansans.
“What is most disappointing about the House vote to pass this bill isn’t the vote of the conservatives who we know must appease their extremist base, but the lack of public action to oppose or amend the bill by those legislators who claim they sincerely oppose it,” Meade said in a statement.
“It’s unfortunate that discrimination against LGBT Kansans is seen as a distraction for the Democratic leadership, rather than a call to action.”
Davis declined to respond.