Saturday, February 15, 2014
From my colleague, Will Huhn, Associate Director of the Constsitutional Law Center at Akron, one of four national centers established by Congress.
In the name of defending religious freedom, the Kansas House recently adopted a statute that would authorize any person or business to refuse service, employment, or employment benefits to same-sex couples. Is it constitutional?
[N]otice that the protection extends to "sincerely held religious beliefs ... regarding sex or gender." Not sexual orientation, but "sex or gender." It is difficult to believe that this law was written to justify gender discrimination, but that is how it is written. In fact, the word "sex" is also ambiguous. Is the law speaking of "sex roles" or "sexual acts"? Is it meant to protect "sincere religious beliefs" regarding the proper roles of men and women or proper and improper modes of consensual sexual conduct? ....
If the qualifying phrase relates solely to "employment benefits" then the scope of the law is very broad indeed, permitting gender discrimination across the board by individuals and private businesses in terms of whom they serve and whom they employ, so long as the person or business holds a "sincere religious belief" that persons of that gender are not supposed to engage in certain conduct or have certain privileges.