Politics

Kansas Governor Signs Executive Order Exempting Churches From Performing Same-Sex Weddings

| by Ethan Brown

Republican Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas signed a state executive order that protects religious groups and organizations from performing same-sex marriages or providing any type of service to same-sex couples if they feel it is a violation of their First Amendment rights.

The U.S. Supreme Court legalized same sex marriage in a 5-4 decision on June 26, removing any previous bans on gay marriage throughout the nation. The Court’s decision angered many religious groups, who felt the Justices were infringing on religious liberties granted in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Brownback's executive order allows religious organizations to decline to perform same sex weddings if members “have a sincerely held religious belief or moral conviction” that marriage should be between one man and one woman, according to Reuters.

In a statement following the order’s signing on July 7, Brownback noted the state’s “duty” to follow the Constitution.

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“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 wrote. "We also recognize that religious liberty is at the heart of who we are as Kansans and Americans 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."

However, in a victory for same-sex couples, the state of Kansas now allows spouses to be added to state workers’ health care plans.

Ron Nelson, a family law expert, compared Brownback's order to the South resisting desegregation in the 1950’s and 1960’s.

“Any organization that contracts with the state that says their religious beliefs don’t allow them to do something, then they don’t have to do it," he told Reuters. "This is the same technique that southern states tried to use to frustrate Brown vs. Board of Education."

Catholic bishops throughout the state hailed Brownback’s order and referred to Catholic adoption services in other states that were forced to close for not following a stricter law.

“In this country, religious freedom has meant the right to live one’s faith in one’s daily life, at home and at work, in private and in public … Kansans who believe that every child deserves a mother and a father should not be punished by the government for that belief,” a statement from the bishops read.

However, the executive director of a gay rights organization in the state felt differently.

“The governor clearly has no respect for gay and lesbian Kansans and this is his way of saying that," Tom Witt, the director of Equality Kansas, said about the decision. "Instead of welcoming us to first-class citizenship along with everyone else in this state he sends out this executive order that basically says, too bad."

This executive order is largely symbolic, considering that the Supreme Court ruling already included an exemption for religious institutions, Kansas.com reports.

Sources: Reuters via International Business Times, Kansas.com

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/WikiCommons