Horrific Gay Discrimination Bills Rejected In Kansas and Idaho

In the last week, lawmakers in both Idaho and Kansas have introduced Jim Crow-esque bills that would enshrine homophobia into state law, permit carte blanche discrimination against LGBT people in both the public and private spheres, and essentially create a second-class of citizen in the respective states. In both cases, the laws — which mask their anti-gay policies in the cloak of “religious freedom” — were expected to pass the GOP-controlled chambers easily. And yet both times, the laws were abruptly pulled at the last minute after intense public backlash.

Both the Kansas and Idaho bills would have permitted just about every form of discrimination imaginable against LGBT people in the states. Everyone from store owners to police officers would be allowed to turn away gay people. Landlords would be permitted to evict residents due to their sexual orientation, and state agencies — like the unemployment office, for example — could withhold checks and benefits from LGBT-identified folk. Oh, and anyone who tried to sue the state for discrimination would have to pay the legal bills of the person they were suing.

Because conservative Republicans control both states, there was little doubt that both measures would become law. But on Thursday, Kansas State Senate President Susan Wagle announced that the bill didn’t have enough support amongst Republicans to pass. A week later, the sponsor of the Idaho legislation, Rep. Lynn Luker, withdrew the bill from consideration after the House decided unanimously decided to return it to committee. Luker said that the bill had been “misinterpreted” as “a sword for discrimination,” and the House Speaker says “it’s not coming back this session.”

Why the abrupt about-faces by Idaho and Kansas Republicans? It’s impossible to say, but the vast public outrage could have had something to do with it. More than 500 demonstrators swarmed Idaho’s statehouse last week during a committee hearing to protest the bill. The Kansas measure was slammed in opinion columns across the country, while an editorial in a Russian paper used it as means to slam American criticism of Russia’s laws.

While it’s unclear why state Republicans ultimately rejected these two pieces of barbaric legislation, the whole episode suggests that sometimes, strong and public opposition to hateful legislation can actually make a difference.