Keen News Service
KANSAS BACKS OFF RELIGION BILL: The chairman of the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee announced Tuesday that his committee would not advance a bill that would allow any “individual or religious entity” to withhold “any services” and “accommodations,” including “counseling, adoption, foster care” and “employment” that is “related to” any same-sex “relationship.” All a person would have to do is claim to hold a “sincerely held religious belief” against that relationship. The House approved the bill last week, but business leaders voiced strong opposition to the legislation, prompting some to say the bill couldn’t pass the House if another vote was taken. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Jeff King, a Republican, said the committee would not attempt to draft an alternative bill but that he would have a hearing.
MAINE AND TENNESSEE BACK OFF, TOO: The Maine Senate rejected a bill Tuesday that sought to provide a religious exemption to the state human rights bill there. The vote was 16 to 19. And in Tennessee, the sponsor of a bill to allow wedding-industry businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples withdrew his proposal Tuesday. The Tennessean newspaper credited pressure from pro-gay activists, and Senator Mike Bell acknowledged hearing from people “from Johnson City to Memphis.” But Bell said he withdrew the measure because he now believes current state law already protects business owners from “lawsuit harassment” by LGBT activists.
THREE VICTORIES IN SOUTH DAKOTA: The South Dakota Senate Judiciary Committee killed a bill Tuesday that sought to provide a religious exemption to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation. The Rapid City Journal reported that a bill to allow wedding vendors to refuse same-sex couples was withdrawn and a bill to allow religious entities to refuse to perform wedding ceremonies for same-sex couples was killed in committee. South Dakota bans same-sex couples from marrying.
ANOTHER MISSISSIPPI MARVEL: The five-member Hattiesburg, Mississippi, city council approved a resolution Tuesday declaring that it is the city’s policy “to reject discrimination of any kind and to respect the inherent worth of every person, without regard to race, color, religion, national origin, sex, gender identity or expression, age, marital status, sexual orientation, family status, veteran status, disability or source of income…” Hattiesburg in the 1960s was a focus of racial tensions, with white officials blocking blacks from voting and registering to attend the local college. “When local leaders like Mayor Johnny DuPree and members of the city council affirm the inherent value of LGBT people,” said Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin, “they are affecting profound change that will improve lives.” Hattiesburg becomes only the second Mississippi municipality to approve such a resolution. Last month, Starkville became the first to do so.
UGANDA DEAL-MAKING: The Kampala-based independent newspaper The Daily Monitor reported Tuesday that President Yoweri Museveni agreed to sign the parliament’s anti-homosexuality bill as part of a deal to win endorsement from the majority party for his re-election to a fifth term. That paper and others have been expressing concern that the U.S. might withdraw the current military and other assistance it gives to Uganda as a result of the anti-gay law. But it’s a complicated situation, as most international relationships are. According to the State Department, the U.S. provides treatment to more than 400,000 Ugandans with HIV. It also provides military advisers and “significant military, development, and humanitarian resources” to neutralize a terrorist group known as the Lord’s Resistance Army, responsible for widespread murders and rapes against civilians. Last month, the White House announced it would hold a first U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington August 5 and 6.