An extreme anti-gay law that cleared the Kansas state House of Representatives on Wednesday contains language so broad that it could legalize discrimination against many straight couples.
The bill, HB 2453, explicitly protects discrimination, provided that it stems from "the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender." Both private businesses and government officials are permitted to deny "services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges" along with "counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services" and "employment or employment benefits," in any way "related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement."
While the legislation is clearly designed to target gay couples, the sheer scope of the discriminatory behavior authorized would permit businesses to deny services to straight couples if the proprietors do not approve of the couple's gender dynamic. State Rep. Emily Perry (D-Mission), who voted against the bill, warned that women who hold jobs or play other roles not condoned by hardline religious conservatives could face problems, as well.
"It says 'sex or gender,' and I think that women could be definitely discriminated against in this situation, as well, along with homosexual relationships," Perry said in a HuffPost Live interview. "There are plenty of people who definitely, based on their sincerely held religious beliefs, don't believe that women should do X, Y or Z, and I think that this opens the door for discrimination against women."
WATCH Perry's comments in the video above.
Kansas passed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage in 2005. The new anti-gay bill would legalize discrimination based on "sex or gender" issues and immunize businesses and government officials from civil lawsuits over such discrimination.
Earlier this week, Rep. Steve Brunk (R-Wichita) defended the legislation against criticism that it is homophobic. In the process, he appeared to validate Perry's concerns that the bill could result in overtly sexist discrimination.
"It has do with marriage," Brunk told The Wichita Eagle, "whether it’s a homosexual marriage or a heterosexual marriage.”