Tea party group trying to revive bill that allows service refusal to same-sex couples on religious grounds

Saying the Legislature has been cowed by a tiny minority of Kansans, Wichita-based tea party group Kansans for Liberty is launching an e-mail campaign to try to resurrect a bill that would allow government workers and businesses to deny service to gay couples.

In a message addressed to “conservative activists,” Kansans for Liberty leader Craig Gabel is asking his members and others to e-mail members of the state Senate who are refusing to allow a vote on House Bill 2453, called the Kansas Religious Freedom Act.

The bill easily passed the House, but has been put on indefinite hold in the Senate after a nationwide hailstorm of protest that the bill would give state sanction to discriminate against gay people.

Supporters of the bill say that it protects freedom of religion by allowing individuals to deny service if providing it “would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender.”

Kansans for Liberty is asking its activists to e-mail every senator to demand action on HB 2453.

A sample letter provided by the group says: “This is not a Christian battle this is a freedom battle, including the freedom of LGBT couples.”

It draws scenarios asserting that businesses run by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transsexual individuals would benefit from being able to deny service to those who don’t share their beliefs.

“If an LGBT couple owned a meeting space would any of us like to force them to rent it for an anti-gay rally and wedding?” the sample letter says. “Should an African American and his LGBT partner be forced to lease his space or services for a KKK wedding?”

Thomas Witt, executive director of gay-rights group Equality Kansas, said it’s “false, start to finish” to assert that HB 2453 does anything to protect LGBT individuals.

“The sophistry is breathtaking,” he said. “There’s only one target in this bill and it is gay couples.”

He said the only beneficiaries would be anti-gay individuals who would gain legal protection if they defy their employers and refuse to serve gay customers.

Witt said there’s no law now forcing anyone to rent their church or meeting space to anyone they don’t want to, and the idea that the bill would save a gay black person from being forced to rent space to a KKK wedding is “just ludicrous.”

“That doesn’t happen anywhere in this country and it isn’t going to,” he said.

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