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A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

The LGBT Community Isn’t Welcome in Kansas Anymore

By Peter DeWitt — February 13, 2014 2 min read
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As we all sit around our televisions watching the Olympics, we hear the stories of Russia’s anti-gay laws. In the spring of 2013 there were pictures that went around Facebook of LGBT youth bloodied and battered by anti-gay groups, and the police sat back and watched. Horrified, we glared at the pictures and told ourselves that it’s Russia. It’s sad, but it’s a distant country, often seen as the other end of the spectrum from the United States.

After the pictures surfaced, celebrities, athletes, and regular citizens bought t-shirts to show support for the LGBT community. They went online to the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and bought their LoveConquersHate t-shirts. Been there, done that, bought the t-shirt. We show solidarity, and tell ourselves over and over again...it’s Russia. Isn’t it sad that another country can be so narrow minded, and abusive to the LGBT community?

And then we see a story about our own nation.

It’s unbelievable but true. To be honest, I had to read it several times. I spent time looking for other resources because I was sure it was a spoof. The story must have originated on the Onion, the satirical news source. Unfortunately, it is not.

According to Time,

Kansas lawmakers passed a bill Tuesday that would permit businesses and government employees to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of their religious principles. The measure passed an initial vote in the house by a significant margin, 72 votes to 42 votes. In a final vote on Wednesday, the bill succeeded 72 votes to 49 votes and will now be considered by the Republican-controlled state senate."

The Time story, written by Katy Steinmetz went on to say,

State lawmakers engaged in heated debate over House Bill 2453, which would allow hotels, restaurants and stores in the state to refuse to serve gay couples if "it would be contrary to their sincerely held religious beliefs." The bill would also allow government clerks to refuse to sign same-sex marriage licenses without threat of a lawsuit."

Pathetic. It’s 2014 and we still, not only see discrimination at this magnitude in place, we see new legislation to promote it in our own country. At the same time we look down upon Russia for their abuse of the LGBT community, we see a state in our nation passing such legislation. It’s simply pathetic.

LGBT Youth

As we watch marriage equality laws being enacted all over our nation, Kansas legislators send us a purposeful and direct message. Adults in the LGBT community living in Kansas are watching those types of deserved freedoms slip away from them, and sky rocket in an opposite direction.

Business owners and government employees will be able to promote hate, and there is nothing that LGBT adults can do about it...except move out of the state. A state they may have grown up in. A state where their families live.

What’s worse, is that as we watch youth being bullied around our country, many of whom for being gay, we see a state government who wants to promote that type of bullying, and use religious freedom to back it up. Way to go Kansas legislators. I hope you see the day when you realize how bigoted you are.

In the End

There are many issues that will happen. Gay couples will feel less safe walking around, because if their state government will discriminate, so will everyday people walking by. Schools, government officials, business owners, and anyone who works in Kansas can discriminate with protections behind them.

According to Mark Joseph Stern of Slate,

Any government employee is given explicit permission to discriminate against gay couples--not just county clerks and DMV employees, but literally anyone who works for the state of Kansas. If a gay couple calls the police, an officer may refuse to help them if interacting with a gay couple violates his religious principles. State hospitals can turn away gay couples at the door and deny them treatment with impunity. Gay couples can be banned from public parks, public pools, anything that operates under the aegis of the Kansas state government."

This all means that LGBT students growing up in Kansas just learned that, not only does their government not protect them, they don’t care about them either. That will trickle down to schools, which means in 2014 we have a population of students who do not feel safe every day. Sadly, we know that this is not the only marginalized population in the country who face discrimination on a daily basis, but as numerous states across the country show their support of the LGBT community, Kansas is making it well-known they do not.

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The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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