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‘Kansas anti-gay bill openly legalizes discrimination’

Published time: February 18, 2014 05:39
AFP Photo / Yasuyoshi Chiba

An anti-gay bill passed by the Kansas House of Reps last week would basically legalize discrimination against gays and lesbians. While Russia’s law is ‘preventative’, this one is quite ‘aggressive’, says expert on international law Alexander Mercouris.

The Republican-controlled Kansas House voted 72-49 on Wednesday to approve the bill that gives legal protection to businesses and individuals that refuse service to same-sex couples and individuals for religious reasons.

The controversial bill has triggered an angry public reaction with protests staged in several cities across the nation.

The bill has been criticized by the state Senate, amid fears it goes beyond simply protecting religious beliefs.

RT: As a legal expert, what do you make of this bill? Are there fears of it being about more than just protecting religious beliefs? In effect, is it blatant discrimination?

Alexander Mercouris: It is entirely discrimination – that is exactly what it is. This intended law legalizes discrimination by religious people against people who are involved in civil, or gay, marriages or partnerships, so it is in fact precisely about discrimination. It legalizes it. And it does so quite deliberately and openly.

RT: Is there is a human rights issue here?

AM: There is a human rights issue here. If you look at the European Convention on Human Rights, one of the fundamental principles of the convention, and of human rights law generally, is that there should be no discrimination in the way that law is administered. This is a law that actually legislates for discrimination, so it is completely contrary to human rights, as they are properly understood.

RT: This bill – it’s obviously not law yet, and is not likely to become law so we understand – but supporters of it are saying that they are preserving religious values. Is this a sign of a rise in conservative traditional values that we’re seeing, not just in the West, but elsewhere around the world?

AM: This has been much talked about and there may be some truth to it. In the US there has always been a strong religious conservative constituency, very strong in states like Kansas, Utah, which has laws not quite like this, but similar sort of laws. I’m not sure to what extent it’s true to say that this is becoming more prevalent, but if you want to find evidence for that, one can see it. In India, the Supreme Court recently said that homosexuality is illegal. And that came as a surprise to many people.

RT: And what about the comparison between what we see in Kansas and what we’ve seen recently in Russia, with the law banning the promotion of homosexual propaganda amongst minors? We’ve heard plenty of media criticism about what’s been going on in Russia, but not much on what’s being talked about Kansas.

AM: Well, there's been very little about what’s being talked about in Kansas, or about fact that there are other laws in American states that actually prohibit propaganda about homosexuality to minors in schools.

Can I just say something about the Russian law? It’s very widely misunderstood – it is a law that regulates information that is provided mainly in the mass media which might be harmful to their development, and which might encourage them to develop non-traditional sexual orientation or relationships. It’s nothing like as explicit as these American laws are and certainly bears little comparison to the one proposed in Kansas. The one in Kansas permits an activity that is universally considered discriminatory and illegal. The one in Russia prevents information which the lawmakers there think might be harmful to children. The American law is aggressive, the Russian law is preventative. They’re very different. And the American law is much more serious.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.