Sides at odds over bill proposed to protect religious decision-making

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TOPEKA, Kan. -- A bill getting consideration in the Kansas State House could protect individuals, businesses and groups in their discrimination against same-sex marriages and unions.

Supporters say the measure is about protecting bakeries, photographers and others from being punished for refusing for religious reasons to supply goods and services for same-sex weddings.

But opponents say the language of the bill extends beyond goods and services and could become a matter of life and death.

"I just can't even think where they're head is at on this. I mean we are all human beings," said Bruce Winter, a Board Member of LikeMe Lighthouse in Kansas City.

Johnson County Republican Charles Macheers first introduced the bill, now being considered in the Kansas Federal and State Affairs Committee

Supporters say it would protect those who refuse to recognize same-sex unions or provide benefits to gay couples for religious reasons. The thinking is that people should not have to compromise their religious beliefs because of a threat of legal action.

But local gay activists say using religion as a cover for hatred is not freedom.

"They're not making sense here. They are talking Christian values and all this, but it's not what a Christian value really is," Winter said.

Winter legally married his partner of more than 30 years in Iowa two years ago. He says proponents of the Kansas bill are just reacting to two federal court decisions which strike down bans on gay marriage.

"You're a productive citizen, you pay your taxes. You give back to the community. Who are you to judge anybody else. My lifestyle does not affect your lifestyle at all," said Winter.

Supporters say the bill is merely about religious freedom. The hearing on the bill continues on Wednesday. Both supporters and opponents say they expect the bill to be introduced on the house floor with little opposition.

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