Kansas governor issues order protecting clergy, groups opposed to gay marriage

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback says ‘while we disagree with the decision of the Supreme Court, it is important that all Kansans be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve.’Reuters

Republican Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has issued a religious freedom executive order protecting clergies, religious leaders and religious organisations from state government action if they refuse to officiate in same-sex marriage, which is now legal throughout the United States.

Brownback has publicly made known his opposition to same-sex marriage. In issuing the order, he said "we have a duty to govern and to govern in accordance with the Constitution as it has been determined by the Supreme Court decision. We also recognise that religious liberty is at the heart of who we are as Kansans and Americans, and should be protected."

He said the state's Bill of Rights upholds 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 organisations from being forced to participate in activities that violate their sincerely and deeply held beliefs. While we disagree with the decision of the Supreme Court, it is important that all Kansans be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve," he said.

Executive Order 15-05, called the "Preservation and Protection of Religious Freedom," prohibits state government from taking any discriminatory action against any clergy, religious leader or religious organisation that refuses to participate in same-sex marriage.

The order said "the recent imposition of same-sex marriage by the United States Supreme Court poses potential infringements on the civil right of religious liberty."

In April 2013, Brownback signed the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, stating that the state government will not "substantially burden a person's civil right to exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability, unless such government demonstrates, by clear and convincing evidence, that application of the burden to the person is in furtherance of a compelling government interest, and is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling government interest."

Under the executive order, the state will not make any action against religious organisations if they decline to solemnise or provide services, accommodations, facilities, goods, or privileges for a purpose related to the solemnisation, formation, celebration or recognition of same-sex marriage.

These discriminatory actions include any tax-related issues; disallowing tax deductions of any charitable contribution; and terminating any state grant, contracts, subcontract, cooperative agreement or loan.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas criticised the executive order, saying it is unnecessary and harmful.

"Religious institutions have never been required to marry anyone outside their faith traditions. Allowing same-sex couples to marry—as the US Supreme Court has now ruled is the law of the land in all 50 states—does not change that in any way, and so today's Executive Order is unnecessary," it said.

It said the order is "deeply harmful in that it sanctions discrimination against loving, committed same-sex couples by all manner of religious organisations using taxpayer funding."

ACLU Kansas said under the order, a homeless shelter that got state contract or grant could refuse family housing to a gay couple with a child, or a foster care agency could refuse to place a child in their custody with the child's family member just because the family member is in a same-sex relationship.