Kansas Gov. Saves Clergy From Gay-Marriage Woe

     TOPEKA, Kan. (CN) – Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday issued an executive order that prohibits state government from discriminating against clergy or religious organizations that refuse to perform same-sex marriages based on moral convictions.
     Less than two weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states, Brownback issued EO-15-05, “Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom.” The executive order calls protection of religious liberty from government infringement a “fundamental state interest” that complements the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution.
     “The Kansas Bill of Rights affirms the right to worship according to ‘dictates of conscience’ and further protects against any infringement of that right,” Brownback said in a statement. “Today’s executive order protects Kansas clergy and religious organizations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs.”
     He added: “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.”
     Brownback issued the order on the same day that the state began to allow LGBT state workers to add spouses to their health plans. In February, the Republican issued a separate controversial order rescinding discrimination protection for LGBT state workers, which was established in 2007 by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.
     “We are incredibly disappointed by Gov. Brownback,” said Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, a Wichita organization that seeks to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Witt called Brownback’s order “one part scare tactics, one part ducking his constitutional responsibility.”
     Micah Kubic, executive director of the Kansas ACLU, called the order “deeply harmful” and “unnecessary,” and said that it sanctions discrimination against loving, committed same-sex couples by religious organizations using taxpayer funding.
     “Religious institutions have never been required to marry anyone outside their faith traditions. Allowing same-sex couples to marry-as the U.S. Supreme Court has now ruled is the law of the land in all 50 states-does not change that in any way, and so today’s executive order is unnecessary,” Kubic said.
     Under the new law, a homeless shelter receiving a state contract or grant would be protected from legal repercussions if they refuse family housing for a gay couple with a child. A foster-care agency that refuses to place a child with the child’s family member because the family member is in a same-sex relationship would be equally protected.
     “Instead of treating LGBT Kansans fairly, his only act has been to double-down on treating us as second-class citizens,” Witt said.

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