HB 2453, allowing freedom to discriminate against gays, has been stopped in the Kansas senate. But the supporters of the bill continue their arguments.
Marc Rhoades (“View From the Hill,” Feb 20) says that at stake is the “separation of powers” between the legislative and judicial branches of government. The legislature, not the courts, he says, ought to decide the issues between the freedom to discriminate and liberty of conscience.
Rhoades’ argument ignores the history and character of American democracy. The essence of democracy is majority rule and respect for human rights. Throughout our history, all three branches of government—executive, legislative and judicial--have been involved in decisions about balancing these commitments.
All three branches were involved in debate over the Alien and Sedition Acts in the Federalist Era; in the argument about the rights of slaves and slave-owners in the pre-Civil War era; in the decisions about treatment of Japanese-American citizens in World War II; and in hundreds of other complex cases in our nation’s history.
The issue before us is the right of homosexuals to be free from discrimination, posed against the rights of religious objectors to conscientiously discriminate against them. Florists, and other service providers, do not have the right to refuse service to African Americans, even if they have religious convictions against doing so. Should they have the right to refuse service to gays?
Rhoades says the “rule of law” in this case depends upon action by the legislature. Decisions by the courts, in his view, apparently have nothing to do with the “rule of law.” That definition of separation of powers is simply unsupportable in our political system. The executive, the legislative, and the judicial branches all have a legitimate role in determining what the law should be and how it should be administered.
Let us proceed on the merits of the case for liberty and human rights, not on the basis of a specious argument about separation of powers.
— James Juhnke, North Newton