Bathroom Bills in Kansas
Currently in Kansas, four Cities are considering adopting troubling ordinances that give special rights to individuals based upon sexual behavior. More specifically, the cities of Hutchinson, Salina, Pittsburg and Wichita have been asked by a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual & transgender (LGBT) group to adopt nondiscrimination ordinances that protect two new classes of individuals. The two new classes cover individuals of different sexual orientation and gender identity by offering protection in the areas of housing, employment and public accommodation.
Problems have arisen in other areas of the nation where these type of protections have been adopted. Aside from enacting protections for activity that is morally wrong, grave concerns have surfaced regarding religious liberties, rights of conscience and perhaps most troubling, questions regarding the gender-specificity of bathrooms and locker rooms in public facilities.
Religious Liberty Concerns
Business owners who choose to operate their business according to their faith have come under fire accused of discrimination when they decline to avail their services to same sex couples or homosexual activist groups.
- In Virginia, a video duplication company encountered litigation when the Christian owner refused to offer his business services to a homosexual activist group seeking to hire him to duplicate a video that was a documentary of the homosexual lifestyle.
- In New Mexico, a photographer was sued when she declined to avail her services to a same sex couple seeking to have their commitment ceremony photographed despite the fact that the state of New Mexico did not recognize same sex unions.
- In Illinois, a bed and breakfast encountered litigation when refusing service to a same sex couple.
The ordinances currently pending state that business cannot discriminate for religious reasons. In fact, the ordinances currently under consideration require businesses who contract for services with municipal entities to include these new nondiscrimination rules in their business model or they will not be allowed to bid for contracts.
Churches Not Exempt
In many cases where these laws are enacted there is no exemption for churches or religious institutions.
- In Boston, Catholic Charities chose to end its adoption service program when faced with a discrimination lawsuit seeking to force the provision of adoption to same sex coupled despite the fact that the Catholic Church does not approve such adoptions. The religious tenets were judged to be subservient to the Massachusetts discrimination law.
- In New Jersey, the the Oak Grove Camp Meeting Association was sued when they declined to avail their property for the purpose of a same sex "wedding". The premise of the lawsuit was based on a New Jersey law prohibiting discrimination based upon sexual orientation and gender identity and the Association's prior practice of renting space for approved public functions.
The ordinances currently pending in Kansas state in part that any church that uses its facilities for public events cannot decline to rent space to any group for religious reasons. In fact, the material provided by the city in both Hutchinson and Salina states that if a church hosts public events on it property, it cannot decline to rent space to a homosexual couple for a party.
Much of the controversy surrounding these ordinances centers on the inclusion of public accommodation. Public accommodation includes the use of any public facility including restrooms and locker rooms.
- In Maine, the Denny's Restaurant chain no longer designates gender-specificity for its restrooms because of a lawsuit brought by a transgendered man. When a female patron complained about the man using the women's restroom the restaurant instructed him to use the men's room. The transgendered man then filed a claim under the Maine nondiscrimination law and pursued legal action to once again gain access to the women's restroom. Eventually the suit was settled when Denny's changed its policy regarding restroom use. The Denny's restaurant chain in Maine no longer restricts access to its restrooms based upon gender.
The ordinances under consideration in Kansas also include the issue of bathroom use. Hutchinson and Salina have both issued statements indication that businesses and public buildings could not restrict bathroom access based upon gender if someone seek to use the bathroom of the opposite gender.