Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback’s overt disrespect of his state’s gay and lesbian citizens reflects badly on his office and on Kansas.
On Tuesday, Brownback issued an unnecessary and insulting executive order in response to last month’s U.S. Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal in all 50 states.
His order purports to protect clergy from being coerced into performing or recognizing gay marriages but does nothing of the sort. That protection has been in place since the birth of our nation.
Brownback’s order may have the pernicious effect of enabling organizations that contract with state government to discriminate against same-sex couples. An agency could cite religious grounds to refuse to place a child with two gay or two lesbian parents, for instance.
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The governor’s pitiful efforts to turn Kansas into an island of intolerance are certain to be noticed by prospective employers.
Besides seeking to locate in places that that prioritize education, good companies look for states that welcome diverse workforces. Right now, Kansas is in trouble on both those fronts.
An almost certain outcome of the executive order is more expensive litigation for cash-strapped Kansas. And the hypocrisy is stunning.
In February, Brownback rescinded an 8-year-old order protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state workers against job discrimination. He contended that then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius had overstepped her executive authority by granting that protection. But he has no problem asserting his executive authority to encourage discrimination against gay and lesbian Kansans under the guise of protecting clergy.
Coming on the heels of Brownback’s mean-spirited revocation of job protections, his latest moves are another rebuff to Kansas’ non-heterosexual citizens.
Although state agencies are beginning to take steps to accommodate married same-sex couples, such as changing names on drivers’ licenses, no public announcement or order has come from the governor’s office.
“He will do anything he can to never have to acknowledge that LGBT people actually exist in this state, and that we have the same rights as everybody else,” said Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas.
It does appear that way. But gay and lesbian individuals do have equal rights under the law, including marriage. Brownback’s reluctance to accept that reality reeks of intolerance.
The only other governor to have issued an order comparable to Brownback’s is Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. He did so in May, in advance of the Supreme Court decision. His order is being challenged in court.
About the same time as Brownback’s office announced his order, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited the Jackson County Courthouse to publicly sign an executive order directing the state’s executive branch to fully comply with the Supreme Court decision.
Nixon called the Obergefell v. Hodges decision “a historic step forward for our nation” and said his own stance on gay marriage had evolved from caution to full support. He correctly encouraged the Missouri General Assembly to pass a law protecting gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual Missourians from job and housing discrimination.
The message sent by the two executive orders could not be more clear. The governor of Missouri values diversity and equality. The governor of Kansas still regards gay and lesbian residents of his state as second-class citizens, not deserving of equal rights.
Nixon has given Missourians a reason to be proud.
Brownback’s actions this week only merit further disgust.