Some good news: the sheer breadth of the sanctioned discrimination in the bill designed to protect religious freedom has apparently doomed it. Maybe it was because, as I noted, it would be a terrible self-inflicted blow for the forces who want to stop gay couples from having stable marriages; or maybe because anti-discrimination really is now a universal maxim for the far right as well as everyone else:
Susan Wagle, a conservative Republican who is president of the Kansas Senate, raised opposition to the House measure, saying she had “grown concerned about the practical impact of the bill” and “my members don’t condone discrimination.”
A couple of final thoughts: it’s possible to mount real resistance to various crackpot, far-right initiatives … and win. And once even the far right oppose anti-gay discrimination, the terms of the debate have been set up for victory for gay equality.
Update from a reader:
I’ve enjoyed your coverage of the Kansas far-right implosion, especially since I have been working at the center of this mess for the past two weeks. I thought it might be helpful to highlight why the overwhelmingly negative response to this bill resulted in action from conservative Republicans. It’s a simple equation:
public outcry + legitimate opposition candidates = policy change. Without a legitimate challenger to Gov. Brownback, this bill could have gone forward and been signed into law without any repercussions. But the fact that Paul Davis, the presumed Democratic nominee for governor, raised over a million dollars in just four months and beat Brownback head-to-head in the only public poll to date made it impossible for Republicans to push this legislation forward over public objection.
Kansas Republicans did not wake up and realize discrimination is wrong. They did not have an awakening on the policy. Anti-discrimination is not a universal maxim in the Republican Party. Sixty nine GOP House members (out of 92) voted for this bill knowing it discriminated against the LGBTQ community. This vote shows how far-right Kansas Republicans think and act when people aren’t paying attention.
Political survival is a much more universal maxim and Gov. Brownback did not want to make a decision on this bill, so he had his Senate leaders spike it to protect his re-election campaign. It’s a less uplifting narrative, but also a helpful reminder of how to accomplish change in American politics – get organized, get loud, and scare both political parties into taking your demands seriously.