The Kansas Republican-controlled House of Representatives passed a bill on February 11 that makes it legal to discriminate against LGBTIQ people in the mid-western US state.
This caused outrage across the US. If passed by the Senate, the law would make it legal for private businesses to discriminate against LGBTIQ people and allow public servants to deny LGBTIQ people basic services — so long as their reasoning is motivated by “sincerely held religious beliefs”.
What makes the law so appalling is that it was already legal in Kansas to discriminate against LGBTIQ people, which still do not have marriage equality.
These laws have been passed under the guise of “religious liberty”. However, president of the Kansas Senate Susan Wagle has assured those concerned that the bill would not pass the chamber in its current form, saying “public service needs to remain public service for the entire public”.
This is a shift in tactics for social conservatives. They had been campaigning against the growing movement for equality for all, regardless of sexuality. Now, they are campaigning to be exempt from upholding equality on the basis of “religious liberty”.
Under the law, any individual boss or public servant can use religion to justify discrimination. This includes police, teachers, nurses, doctors and hotel owners. It could ban LGBTIQ people from access to public spaces and services, ushering in a new era of segregation.
To make matters worse, the Democrats, the supposed progressives, appeared complacent about the bill and were unwilling to engage in the debate during the vote.
State chair of Equality Kansas Sandra Meade said: “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.”
As other Republican-run states look on with interest and horror, there is no doubt that if this bill passes in the Senate, it will prompt conservatives to seek similar laws in other states.