Metro Weekly

Kansas lawmakers pushing bills declaring gay marriage “parody marriage”

One of the bills would prohibit bans on conversion therapy and ban "Drag Queen Storytime" events

Kansas State Capitol – Credit: Rough Tough, Real Stuff/flickr

Republican lawmakers in Kansas are championing two bills that criticize the existence of same-sex marriages by labeling them “parody marriages.”

Both bills were introduced by Rep. Randy Garber (R-Sabetha), with one being co-sponsored by six other House Republicans, and a second being sponsored by seven other Republicans, reports The Wichita Eagle.

The first bill claims that same-sex marriages “erode community standards of decency,” and attempts to pit the African-American community against the LGBTQ community through a series of inflammatory statements, arguing that civil rights for LGBTQ people should not be equated to civil rights for black people because “there are no ex-blacks but there are thousands of ex-gays.”

That bill also conflates embracing one’s LGBTQ identity with adhering to “secular humanism,” which the bill defines as a form of religious belief. As such, the bill seeks to prohibit the government from taking any action that could be interpreted as an endorsement of secular humanism or promoting homosexuality or transgenderism.

That includes a provision to prohibit public libraries and public schools from hosting Drag Queen Storytime (also written as “Story Time”) events, which, based on several recent lawsuits in Louisiana and Texas, have become the latest battle in the culture war over LGBTQ rights.

There is also a provision that would enshrine the right of therapists to practice conversion therapy, and place a moratorium on any efforts to ban the practice, even on minors, based on the premise that the government should not take measures to promote its own preferred beliefs or infringe on a person (or therapist’s) free speech rights.

The second bill sees to create an “elevated marriage” for straight couples and includes a number of provisions that would make it more difficult for couples to divorce. Under that bill, same-sex marriages, or “parody marriages,” would still be allowed to take place because of First Amendment protections allowing people to freely practice their religion — in this, case, the religion of “secular humanism.”

Garber told the Wichita Eagle that the language in the bills might be considered harsh, but he’s adamant about professing his belief that the only form of true marriage is one between a man and a woman.

“[T]his 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,” he said.

“Their marriage probably doesn’t affect me — their union or whatever you want to call it,” Garber added. “But in my opinion, they’re trying to force their beliefs on society.”

Kansas State Rep. Randy Garber – Photo: Facebook.

Neither bill is likely to become law, as both would likely be vetoed by Gov. Laura Kelly (D), an LGBTQ rights supporter, and there is not universal support for either measure among members of the Republican caucus. One of Kelly’s first acts was to issue an executive order prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ state employees.

But both bills appear to signal the continuation of a trend, begun by Tennessee lawmakers, to introduce legislation criticizing the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized marriage equality nationwide. Such bills typically argue that the case was wrongly decided and should have allowed the states to make their own laws on marriage. If any such bill was signed into law, it would likely trigger an immediate legal challenge and could bring the issue back before the Supreme Court.

Thomas Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas, called the two bills “the most vile, hateful, and disrespectful legislation I have seen in my 14 years as Equality Kansas’ lobbyist.”

“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,” he said in a statement posted to Twitter.

“These bills combined are 18 pages of insults and name-calling. Fred Phelps would be proud,” he added, referring to the founder of the anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church. “The sponsors of these bills should be ashamed of themselves.”

The Family Policy Alliance of Kansas told the Wichita Eagle that is had no role in pushing the legislation, and declined comment on both bills.

Garber’s bills come just two weeks after openly gay State Rep. Brandon Woodard (D-Lenexa) introduced a bill to prohibit discrimination against LGBTQ individuals in employment and housing. That bill currently has 38 co-sponsors.

Woodard, who, along with fellow State Rep. Susan Ruiz (D-Shawnee), was elected as Kansas’ first openly gay state legislator in November, noted that several pro-LGBTQ candidates had emerged victorious in the 2018 elections.

“I think the voters of Kansas have made it very clear that we should be open and inclusive to all Kansans,” he said.

John Riley is the local news reporter for Metro Weekly. He can be reached at jriley@metroweekly.com

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