A handful of Kansas lawmakers are backing a bill that labels same-sex marriages “parody marriages” and seeks to stop the state from recognizing them.
Another bill would create an “elevated marriage” for straight couples and make divorce more difficult in some cases. That bill also describes same-sex marriages as parody marriages.
The public disapproval of same-sex marriage from some Republican lawmakers comes just months after voters elected the state’s first openly gay lawmakers and less than two weeks after the introduction of a bill that would prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals statewide.
The anti-gay marriage bills stand virtually no chance of becoming law. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s first official act in office was to restore non-discrimination protections for LGBT state workers, and she would almost certainly veto such a bill.
And although the Kansas Constitution prohibits same-sex marriage, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that gay couples have the right to marry. An immediate court challenge would be expected if the bill ever did become law.
Still, the bills mark the reemergence of same-sex marriage as a political issue in the Statehouse at a time when Democrats and some Republicans are pushing for non-discrimination legislation.
“Their marriage probably doesn’t affect me – their union or whatever you want to call it. But in my opinion, they’re trying to force their beliefs on society,” said Rep. Randy Garber, a Sabetha Republican and the bill’s lead sponsor.
One of the bills describes sexual orientation as a “mythology.”
“I am very disappointed,” said Rep. Susan Ruiz, a Shawnee Democrat who is the first lesbian to serve openly in the Kansas Legislature. “I see who the co-sponsors are and I sit with a couple of them in committee and I’m certainly going to talk to them about that and say, ‘hey, I don’t know if you know about it or not, but I’m not a myth… Am I a unicorn?’”
Ruiz said she has felt welcomed by lawmakers of both parties during her first weeks at the Statehouse and that she has not experienced any mean-spirited comments.
Tom Witt, director of the gay rights group Equality Kansas, said the legislation represents the “most vile, hateful and disrespectful legislation” he has seen in 14 years as a lobbyist. The sponsors should be ashamed of themselves, he said.
“Every year, we see bills that restrict, remove, and limit the rights of LGBT Kansans, but never have we seen this level of extremist vitriol laid out in legislative language. These bills combined are 18 pages of insults and name calling,” Witt said.
Witt added that “Fred Phelps would be proud.” Phelps was a infamous anti-gay preacher from Topeka who led the Westboro Baptist Church, known for picketing at public events.
In a 20-minute interview, Garber acknowledged that he did get “kind of harsh” in the language used in the bill, calling same-sex marriages “parody marriages.” But he emphasized that he believes the only true marriage is between a man and a woman.
Garber said society has veered extremely to the left “when they say there’s 37 different gender identities and I’m going ‘What?’”
“So this bill is to say the state should stay out of religious unions. The state has always said that they will not interfere, or that they will not promote one religion over another. Well now, they are promoting secular humanism over all other forms of religion,” Garber said.
Several paragraphs in the bill seek to describe differences between the civil rights movement and the gay rights movement. The bill says “there are no ex-blacks but there are thousands of ex-gays.”
The legislation also says that many citizens who object to what the bill terms “LGBTQ secular humanism” do so not out of bigotry.
“I don’t believe myself to be a bigot. I’m Christian and I love people. I believe you should love everybody, but I believe you should also take a stand on what you believe, lovingly,” Garber said.
Rep. Brandon Woodard is a Lenexa Democrat and one of the first two openly LGBT members to serve in the Legislature, along with Ruiz. He is co-sponsoring a bill that would ban discrimination in housing and in the workplace on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, a protection that already exists for race and religion.
“I think the voters of Kansas have made it very clear that we should be open and inclusive to all Kansans,” he said.
Woodard noted that his legislation currently has 38 co-sponsors and said that he’s confident Garber’s measures would never receive the 63 votes needed to pass the House.
Garber’s two marriage bills have six or seven co-sponsors in addition to Garber.