March 23, 2016 at 10:33 am EDT | by Chris Johnson
Brownback signs ‘religious freedom’ bill against LGBT students
Sam Brownback, Republican Party, Kansas, Values Voter Summit, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) speaks at the Values Voter Summit on Sept. 25, 2015. (Washington Blade file photo by Michael Key)

Consistent with his record in opposition to LGBT rights, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday signed into law a “religious freedom” bill seen to enable discrimination against LGBT students in his state’s public universities.

Brownback didn’t sign the bill quietly: The governor signed the measure during a ceremony surrounded by lawmakers and lobbyists for the Kansas Catholic Conference and the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas joined him for the announcement.

“Religious liberty is part of the essence of who we are as a nation and as a state,” Brownback said. “At our founding, people coming to the United States came here seeking religious liberty. I’m pleased to sign SB 175 today, the Campus Religious Freedom Bill, ensuring that college students can also enjoy this bedrock American principle.”

At a time when nearly 200 anti-LGBT bills have been pending before state legislatures, Brownback’s decision to sign SB 175 makes him the first governor this year to sign into law legislation enabling discrimination against LGBT people.

The legislation, SB 175, would prohibit postsecondary schools from taking adverse action against religious student associations, such as denying them meeting places or official recognition, if these associations reject members who don’t “adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” Critics say the measure would enable these associations to refuse membership to LGBT students at taxpayer-funded public institutions.

Brownback during the signing ceremony disputed the measure would enable discrimination, saying “that is inaccurate.”

“This is a very good narrow, targeted piece of legislation that will serve the betterment of college campuses in the state,” Brownback continued.

Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, blasted Brownback for signing the measure, calling it a “shameful decision” that disadvantages tens of thousands of students attending school in Kansas.

“History has never looked kindly on leaders who promote discrimination, and Gov. Brownback has recklessly abandoned his responsibility to ensure all students are treated with dignity and respect,” Griffin said. “This is a dark day for Kansas, and we must find a path to eventually seeing that this deplorable law is ripped out and thrown away.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, the bill jeopardizes non-discrimination policies put in place by many Kansas educational institutions, including the Kansas Board of Regents and the University of Kansas. These institutions prohibit student organizations from discriminating on the basis of race, sex, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity to continue receiving financial and other support.

Brownback has a history of opposing LGBT rights. Last year, Brownback made one of his first orders of business in his second term reversing an executive order instituted by former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius prohibiting discrimination against LGBT state workers.

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said signing SB 175 into law is just the latest move from Brownback to enable anti-LGBT discrimination in the state.

“The Brownback administration has spent six years trying to write discrimination into Kansas law,” Witt said. “Singling out college students with a bill that forces them to fund groups that actively discriminate against them is bigoted and shameful. This is a sad day for Kansas.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

  • Brian’s Ions

    The struggle continues.
    ————–
    **
    “…Brownback has recklessly abandoned his responsibility to ensure all students are treated with dignity and respect,” Griffin said. “This is a dark day for Kansas, and we must find a path to eventually seeing that this deplorable law is ripped out and thrown away.”**

  • NORMAN DOSTAL

    religious fools-you just cost your state millions in legal fees and you will lose…Praise Jeebus!!!

  • Mark Cichewicz

    BOYCOTT KANSAS NOW

    • andrew123456789

      Yes, and North Carolina too.

  • Leslie Peedin

    The legislation, SB 175, would prohibit postsecondary schools from taking adverse action against religious student associations, … if these associations reject members who don’t “adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs.” Why would you want to be a member of a group if you don’t adhere to the associations beliefs? To cause trouble? In order to sue?

    • andrew123456789

      Well, there are queer Christians, so I can at the very least see the possibility for confusion, and certainly some very ugly and hurtful episodes which are entirely unnecessary. But I do see your point. The legislation is idiotic, pointless, frivolous, but it is of course obvious that the underlying action here is not merely to defend the bigots, but also to attack the queer people. To keep the culture wars raging. Ugly stuff.

  • Reason&logic

    Economic stimulus for lawyers, and their families who desperately need another new Mercies or yacht.

  • “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”

    You see anything there that says you can impose your religion on anyone else?

  • old married lady

    Kansas may not have any anti-discrimination laws, but the Feds do. Discriminating against trans students is a violation of Title IX and may cost the school its federal funding (Pell Grants) and any other federal money they accept). Any you know the Kansas legislature isn’t putting state funds into its colleges or universities. Kansas is flat-broke as a result of its tax structure.

  • Phil B.

    Considering what they’ve done to their states education system, they’re probably doing LGBT students a favor by discouraging them from attending Kansas colleges.

  • andrew123456789

    He’s kind of a monster, isn’t he?

    • Anelise Horah

      And he looks so proud to be.

  • glenbo

    >”The legislation, SB 175, would prohibit postsecondary schools from taking adverse action against religious student associations, such as denying them meeting places or official recognition, if these associations reject members who don’t “adhere to the association’s sincerely held religious beliefs.”<

    So if one’s “sincerely held religious beliefs” entail the
    Ten Commandments, one can readily reject another simply for working on the Sabbath or having committed adultery?

    But only if one “holds” these “beliefs” as being “sincere?”

    Thank you for making this so clear and simple and fair to all.

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