“This is about the whole anti-gay industry in the state,” said Witt, who has seen many discriminatory bills like that one surface in the legislature. The field general of the Kansas equality movement won the day, as Pilcher-Cook’s bill died right there—but not the long struggle for statewide acceptance, inclusion and equal rights. That was made clear just 24 hours later.
One day after the surrogacy bill circus died down, across the sprawling capitol in Topeka, Republican Lance Kinzer, the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs chair, abruptly decided to take up another anti-LGBT bill, one that quickly gained national attention and could have had even broader discriminatory repercussions.
“The New Mexico Supreme Court upheld a $7,000 fine against a Christian photographer for politely refusing to take pictures of a same-sex ‘commitment ceremony.’ A baker in Colorado is being forced to undergo ‘sensitivity training’ and bake cakes for gay ‘weddings,’ in violation of his religious beliefs,” Kobach’s mailer read. “Our 1st Amendment religious freedoms have never been in greater danger.”It was called a “religious freedom” bill, and would have allowed any state or private employee to refuse to do business with anyone who offended that employee’s religious beliefs. The concept wasn’t new. The bill had been introduced for several years but never got out of committee. But in 2012, GOP Gov. Sam Brownback and like-minded right-wing Republicans led a purge ousting moderate Republican incumbents. They were beaten in low-turnout primaries, in what one local politico called “the night of the long knives.” Only a few hundred votes, equal to a few evangelical congregations voting en masse, ousted the incumbents.
More: All Eyes on Kansas: The Battle for Marriage Equality Boils Over, Putting Conservatives on the Defensive