“Morality” used to be the established code word for anti-gay and anti-choice discrimination. It seems that “morality” has run it’s course, however, and it is now time for new and improved phraseology to push the anti-choice, anti-gay theological agenda in Kansas. The new catch phrase for discrimination is “religious freedom” and the queen bee of spreading the pollination of religious freedom in Kansas is Representative Jan Pauls.
Representative Pauls is another one of those anti-choice Democrats that pervades the Kansas political landscape. She has served in the Kansas Legislature since 1992 and has used her time there to sponsor numerous anti-choice bills. She wrote a law prohibiting same sex marriage in the state, backed the successful state constitutional amendment to prohibit same-sex marriage, and blocked the attempted repeal of Kansas’ antiquated sodomy ban.
Religious freedom has been creating a lot of buzz nationally and red-state legislatures and red-state politicians have latched on to this discriminatory defense as the life preserver that might “save” them from the evils of Obamacare. Pauls has provided not only her vote for two Kansas bills based upon the false premise of “religious freedom,” but also her strong words of favor. She heralded the Kansas legislature’s so-called “Preservation of Religious Freedom Act” and the expansion of the existing “Conscience Refusal Act,” which both gained momentum from “Obama outrage” over contraception care afforded under the Affordable Care Act.
Representative Pauls resides in Hutchinson, Kansas. Pauls’ stance on these “religious freedom” initiatives may garner her usual votes and favor from many of her constituents at large in this conservative Kansas community, but in this election cycle there is a question as to whether or not Pauls will earn a place on the general election ballot. This time around, Jan Pauls and her “religious freedom” have earned her a Democratic primary opponent, and that primary opponent is gay.
Erich Bishop is a member of the Kansas Equality Coalition, a gay rights organization that has waged a full on political war against Pauls for her public statements, votes and actions against the gay community. Pauls, for example, made the following comment on February 20, 2012:
“If any city or county wants to put in a new group as a protected class, we are then are saying that we are not protecting the religious liberty that we protect in our civil rights act, because in the civil rights act of the state of KS we protect religion. Peoples religious rights are being affected severely, destroyed in some instances by local ordinances, because we have two equal classes in conflict. If someone’s sincere religious beliefs are such that they don’t want someone of a different sex orientation working in their daycare or private foster care facility, this says that even if their religious beliefs say that is a lifestyle they don’t approve of, they don’t want people working in those situations with the children…we are saying that their religious beliefs are trumped by another class. This is a serious situation.”
Representative Pauls’ obvious insinuation is that LGBT people cannot be trusted with children. This comment was made during committee discussion of HB 2260, The Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. The bill would allow individuals the right to sue for perceived “religious discrimination” under local non-discrimination ordinances that afford protections to LGBT citizens, so that they may live and work with protection from being fired and evicted solely due to their sexual orientation or identity.
Representative Annie Kuether, who is also a Democrat who sits on the Judiciary Committee with Jan Pauls, responded by stating:
This bill was introduced last year by those that don’t agree with same sex marriage, now here we are again same bill, same language, but we’re talking about freedom of religion. This isn’t about freedom of religion, it’s about freedom to discriminate. I believe that it’s severely overstepping the separation of church and state and the right of local control.
Representative Pauls has not only consistently sparked the ire of the Kansas Equality Coalition and it’s membership, but has also proven herself as antagonizing to women who support a the right to choose abortion and access contraception without facing discrimination. The following is taken from Jan Pauls 2012 election candidate survey from the Hutchinson News:
Question: Would you strengthen state law on abortion? How?
“I have always been unflinchingly pro life, as are many fellow Democrats. I would like to see the profit motive taken out of abortion and better education for young women who are often lured into self destructive lifestyles because of the fiction that abortion is an easy option.”
The following is a Jan Pauls quote from a discussion board on “when does life begin”….
“As medical science has advanced since the 1973 decision in Roe v Wade, we submit that the fetus can now be medically determined to be clearly a separate person from his or her mother,” Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchison, said at the House Judiciary Committee hearing. “Roe vs Wade stated that if personhood is established, then the fetus has a right to life guaranteed by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution and Section 1 of the Bill of Rights of the Kansas Constitution.”
Progressive Kansas Democrats have long been frustrated by conservative representation, but the general attitude from within the State Democratic Party has been quiet tolerance for those with conservative ideologies within their midst. But, Jan Pauls’ public comments in the name of “religious freedom” finally pushed State Party Chair Joan Wagnon to speak out against this elected member of her own party at a State Party Democratic Convention in February of this year.
”In the last couple of weeks HB 2260 has gotten a lot of press attention and has caught people up in a controversial discussion about what it means. It is about civil rights and it is targeted at members of the gay community. It just seems to me to be wrong, in fact, it is repugnant and hateful. We don’t support the passage of legislation that takes away human rights. One of our legislators, Jan Pauls, has been outspoken on this issue and she has supported these issues. Legislators are elected officials and we don’t all think the same. Legislators are entitled to their particular opinion and their vote as they see fit from their values and their constituents, but I need to make it clear that what the KDP (Kansas Democratic Party) believes. We believe in our platform and we do not support HB 2260.”
This statement made by the Chair of the State Democratic Party, highlights the crossroads at which the party finds itself in terms of social issues and also potential for social issues to become pivotal points of decision for Democratic voters. Kansas is not known for contentious Democratic primaries. These kinds of inter-party conflicts have long been the mark of the Kansas Republican Party. While the Democratic Party is Kansas doesn’t hold enough power within the legislature for the primary of Jan Pauls to be considered pivotal in outcome, a win for Erich Bishop could hold a symbolic and emotional significance that could propel progressive Democrats to challenge conservative incumbents across the state. And word on the street is that Mr. Bishop stands a very good chance of beating Hutchinson’s standing Democratic incumbent.
Only time will tell and in the meantime, you will find Jan Pauls living in her church and praying for a win in her August 7th Democratic primary election.