Two governors. One U.S. Supreme Court ruling. Two very different executive orders.
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon visited the Jackson County Courthouse Tuesday to proudly and publicly sign an executive order directing all state departments, boards, agencies and commissions in the executive branch to take any steps necessary to comply with last month’s Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to same-sex marriages.
Calling the Obergefell v. Hodges ruling “a historic step forward for our nation,” the Democratic governor said he was committed to “protecting the rights of all Missourians.”
In Kansas, meanwhile, Gov. Sam Brownback signed an executive order directing state government not to take any action that violates the belief by clergy and religious leaders and organizations that “marriage is or should be recognized as the union of one man and one woman.”
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“...the recent imposition of same sex marriage by the United States Supreme Court poses potential infringements on the civil right of religious liberty,” the Republican governor asserted in his order.
The order, announced by Brownback’s office, was accompanied by a statement from the Republican governor saying that “while we disagree with the decision of the Supreme Court, it is important that all Kansans be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.”
While nothing was mentioned in his order, the Kansas employee health plan has begun accepting applications for same-sex couples and the Department of Revenue has said it will accept name changes for married same-sex individuals. So Brownback has begun complying with the Supreme Court decision even as he continues to protest it.
Overall, the messages could not be more different.
Missouri’s governor congratulated the state’s gay and lesbian citizens and assured them the full benefits of marriage, including coverage for spouses on the health plans of state employees. Thanks to an executive order Nixon signed a couple of years ago, same-sex couples already can file joint tax returns.
Kansas’s governor, meanwhile, felt the need to issue an order protecting churches and religious schools and charities against “the imposition” of marriage equality.
No one is interpreting the U.S. Supreme Court decision as saying churches must conduct gay marriages against their will. The decision itself states otherwise. Brownback’s order unnecessarily affirms that the tax-exempt status of churches and religious institutions is safe regardless of their stance on same-sex marriage.
At his bill signing, Nixon again called upon the Missouri General Assembly to pass a law protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination in employment, housing and accommodations.
“When the Supreme Court says you can have same-sex marriage but you can lose your job because of that, it doesn’t make any sense,” he said.
Needless to say, there was no mention of non-discrimination based on sexual orientation slipped into Brownback’s statement. Remember, he revoked non-discrimination protections for state employees earlier this year.
Businesses and individuals take note:
Missouri offers a welcoming climate for gay, lesbian, transgender and bisexual citizens.
Kansas, not so much. The governor, speaking for his state, would prefer a return to inequality.
To reach Barbara Shelly, call 816-234-4594 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bshelly.