Story by Molly Longman
Last Wednesday, a bill aimed at protecting individuals, groups and businesses that refuse to recognize or provide services, facilities, goods or employment benefits to same-sex couples was approved by a Kansas House committee.
If passed, this bill would allow private business owners and government employees to treat same-sex couples as personae non grate.
This would mean such providers can refuse service for anything from taste-testing wedding cake samples to services like adoption, counseling or employment benefits.
A case in Lakewood, Colo., two years ago involved a gay couple who went to a bakery run by Jack Phillips.
The couple told Phillips that it would like a wedding cake, but Phillips refused to make the cake, saying that the cake was an iconic symbol of marriage.
The couple took Phillips to court. He is currently appealing a judge’s order that he cease what the court deemed a discriminatory practice.
“Where is Marie Antoinette when you need her? Just let them eat the damn cake,” said first-year student Alexis Kulash. “I think it’s upsetting that Kansas is considering this bill. It’s upsetting that at this day and age people can’t accept each other.”
“You’ll find intolerance everywhere, but certain states are being more proactive than others,” Kulash said.
The bill in Kansas states that any individual, group or business does not have to treat any marriage, of any orientation, as valid if, “It would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs” of the provider.
If passed, having to make a boxed wedding cake would be the least of the worries of same-sex couples in Kansas.
Sara Filo, a first-year law, politics and society student at Drake University, was outraged when she heard about the bill.
“It sounds like an infringement of civil rights. It sounds like when it used to be OK for a café owner to say, ‘I’m not going to serve coffee to black people.’ Even if you don’t support gay marriage, you’re not marrying them. You’re just making cake,” Filo said.
Proponents of this bill are saying that the First Amendment protects an individual’s rights to freedom of speech and religion.
Brita Olmsted doesn’t think that this argument is valid.
“It’s stretching the interpretation of the freedom of speech. If your doors are open to the public, you should serve everyone as long as they’re not making a disturbance. You don’t have to support their choices, but that doesn’t mean you should discriminate,” Olmsted said.
Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle announced last week that she would ensure that a majority of Republicans vote against the bill.
For now, it appears that the bill will die in Senate.