Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has issued an executive order protecting clergy and churches from lawsuits over their refusal to participate in same-sex marriages.
“We have a duty to govern and to govern in accordance with the Constitution as it has been determined by the Supreme Court decision,” Brownback said in a prepared statement. “We also recognize that religious liberty is at the heart of who we are as Kansans and Americans, and should be protected. The Kansas Bill of Rights affirms the right to worship according to ‘dictates of conscience’ and further protects against any infringement of that right. 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.”
Kansas isn’t the only state to adopt protections for clergy after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage late last month. Last week, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill passed by the legislature at the end of its session to shield pastors from lawsuits. Oklahoma enacted a similar measure May 1, and Tennessee legislators are considering one. And Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal issued his own executive order providing protections to pastors after lawmakers in his state failed to pass a proposed bill. Shortly after the Supreme Court decision, Jindal issued another executuive order protecting and offering legal representation to any clerks who chose not to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples because of religious objections.
County clerks in Kentucky have been sued for refusing to issue marriage licenses. But so far, no members of the clergy or religious institutions are facing lawsuits for refusing to conduct or host a wedding for a homosexual couple.
Businesses in the wedding industry, on the other hand, have been dragged to court for choosing not to provide services for a same-sex ceremony. And all of the businesses so far have lost their cases.
Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal from a New Mexico photographer fined for declining to take photos for a gay couple’s wedding. Last week, officials in Oregon fined a Christian-owned bakery $135,000 for turning down a wedding cake order from a lesbian couple. And this week, a bakery owner in Colorado went to a state appeals court to defend himself against a similar discrimination claim.
By Leigh Jones, World News Service