By Justin Schmidt, Multimedia Journalist - bio | email
Hundreds rallied at the Statehouse in support of equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. (Justin Schmidt/KCTV5)
About 300 protestors wanted to show their opposition to a controversial bill that would permit businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples on the basis of religious beliefs. (Justin Schmidt/KCTV5)
TOPEKA, KS (KCTV/CNN/AP) -
Hundreds rallied at the Statehouse in support of equal rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
About 300 protestors wanted to show their opposition to a controversial bill that would permit businesses to refuse services to same-sex couples on the basis of religious beliefs.
The Kansas House approved Wednesday House Bill 2453. It passed 72-49 and will move next to the state Senate.
However, Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle said Friday the bill will not pass in her chamber as it is currently written.
The rally was organized by Equality House and Planting Peace.
Protestors took photos that featured people lined up at outside the capital building in Topeka. One line was for "straight only" and for "second class citizens."
Organizers intentionally wanted to make a connection between LGBT equality and the Civil Rights movement.
Wagle says that the bill goes beyond protecting religious freedom. She raised concerns about discrimination and how it could impact businesses that would refuse services to gay couples.
Wagle says most Republican senators support traditional marriage and protecting religious freedom.
Most Senate Democrats oppose the bill.
The bill reads, in part: "No individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender:
"Provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement."
Equality Kansas, a rights organization, blasted the vote. It said the bill, if passed, would allow employees of government agencies to treat legal marriages as invalid.
"Kansans across the state are rightly appalled that legislators are spending their efforts to pass yet another piece of legislation that seeks to enshrine discrimination against gay and lesbian people into law," said Sandra Meade, state chair of Equality Kansas. "HB 2453 is a blatant attempt to maintain second-class citizen status for taxpaying gay and lesbian Kansans."
Same-sex marriage is banned in more than 30 states, including Kansas.
Same-sex marriage is legal in 17 U.S. states and the District of Columbia: California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
Worldwide, 16 other countries (and parts of Mexico) also have laws allowing same-sex marriage and domestic partnerships. Most of the nations are in Europe and South America.
Copyright 2014 KCTV (Meredith Corp.) and CNN and The Associated Press. All rights reserved.
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