Red Letter Day

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Nut up or shut up, Democrats

With Brown's win, why don't the Democrats, instead of giving up, call the GOP's bluff on the filibuster?

Negotiate a good compromise bill and put it up there. Make the GOP engage in a real filibuster, bringing the business of the Senate to a halt. While Scott Brown (or whoever) spends days on end reading "War and Peace" into the Congressional record, Obama and other should take the offensive, excoriating the filibustering Senators for blocking the business of the nation, and calling on a fair, simple, and straightforward up-or-down vote.

Meanwhile, why doesn't the President, you know, try to sell his plan to the country? They guy used to know how to give a speech, and no matter how angry the teabaggers are at the thought of more people having health care, I don't think the majority of America actually likes having their health care decisions made by insurance company bureaucrats.

That's what the Democrats would do if they had any balls. But of course, they don't, so they won't.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

He just plays a normal guy on TV

Apparently, genial game show host Ben Stein is in reality a complete loon.

Another fallen TV hero. Who'd of thunk it that the wisecracking host of "Win Ben Stein's Money" is actually a right-wing nutcase. I knew he used to write speeches for Richard Nixon, but hey, who hasn't? Next thing you know, we'll learn that Big Bird actually is an ex-con who was put away for pecking kids' eyes out or something.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Obama-mania, catch it!


100% total full-frontal caucus action

Along with my friends Marc, Matt and about 2215 other Kansas Democrats, I piled into the Douglas County Fairgrounds last night for the Democratic caucus.

The night was spent mostly waiting in line to get into the arena, which was a huge dirt area used for livestock shows and such. I suspected a secret Republican plot; once they got all the Democrats in the arena, they would lock the gate and release the bulls! Luckily, nothing so dramatic happened, just a lot of talking, cheering and running into people we knew. The actual counting and speeches didn't take too long at all, and at the end of the night, the count was about 10-1 Obama over Hillary. It came close to being a complete sweep, but after the first round of counting, a few of the Edwards folks joined the Clinton section, which pusher her over the limit and got her a couple delegates. In the end, my district went 9-2 for Obama, and for the first time in the history of Kansas Presidential politics, my actual vote counted for something! It even made the muddy parking lot and the drive home in a snowstorm worth it.

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Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Ugh, Hillary

So Hillary Clinton narrowly won the New Hampshire primary. I just don't know what anyone sees in her. Are there really that many Democrats eager to vote for someone who automatically will enter the general election with a 10 point negative handicap versus anyone the Republicans decide to run against her?

What do people see in Hillary? She just strikes me as a a tired, old politician, the ultimate insider. She represents the worst of pandering, phony pseudo-liberal nanny-like outrage, and stale political ideas. I am sick of Bushes and Clintons. I am eager for the Bush years to be over, and the Clinton years should stay in memory a time of happy nostalgia for a period when the economy was booming, the world was at peace, and the Internet was a new frontier.

We can't have President Obama soon enough!

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Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Registration nation

Dave and I went to City Hall today to register for the domestic partnership. It was quite easy, just filling out a form online and paying $75.00 to the city via PayPal. It almost felt like buying something on eBay! The actual legal aspect of the registry wasn't the highlight today, rather it was the amazing atmosphere at City Hall. It was like a wonderful party...you know those videos of City Hall in San Francisco three years ago when their mayor started marrying same-sex couples, just the amount of joy and support and happiness in the room...that is what it was like here in Lawrence this morning, kind of a tiny bubble of San Francisco transferred to Kansas. The crowd cheered after each couple finished registering (there were computers set up there by the Kansas Equality Coalition for this purpose), and there were lots of cameras and media folks around taking pictures and interviewing people, as well as dozens of supporters mingling about in the Commission chambers. Among the supporters were two of our elected officials, Senator Marci Francisco, who brought heart-shaped candy tins to hand out to all the couples who registered, and Mayor Sue Hack, who talked wonderfully about how this made Lawrence a better place. Dave even got to do some impromptu tech support when the browser on one of the computers kept messing up! There's a ton of emotion and it was really a wonderful event. No matter what the future holds, Lawrence made Kansas history today and it was awesome to be a part of it.

Thanks to the City Commission, the City of Lawrence, Kansas Equality Coalition and so many other folks who made today happen. Stay tune to Diane Silver's blog, which promises to have a bunch of pictures and more coverage of today's festivities. And if you are reading this on Wednesday afternoon, check out the front page of the online Journal-World for a nice shot of the back of my head.

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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A lot of nothing means something

Tomorrow, the City of Lawrence will become the first public body in the state of Kansas to register domestic partnerships. The registry is notable for what it doesn't do -- much of anything. It provides no new rights or protections for couples, and to add insult to injury, the cost for registering is $75 - which is $25 more then the state charges for a marriage license (although domestic partners will get nice laminated wallet cards!). At best, the registry will provide folks proof of their relationship so that they can qualify for health insurance at some employers. This will obviously help people needing insurance, and will make for a more business-friendly environment in Lawrence and attract higher-paying jobs and smart people, which is good for all of us.

Still, please do not think I am complaining about the price or lack of concrete benefits! On the contrary, this registry is the most significant step forward in civil rights in Kansas in over 10 years, and is an important symbolic statement that Lawrence is different from the rest of Kansas. We are the city that voted overwhelmingly against the anti-gay marriage amendment two years ago, after all. The fact that this passed here in Lawrence means a lot, and whatever the future of the registry, the fact is, the City of Lawrence stood up for what is right. 130 years ago, they got burned down by Confederate terrorists for doing the same thing. At least we don't have to worry about that any more!

Dave and I will be at City Hall at 10 AM tomorrow. We might even be in the Kansas City Star (a photographer came by to take our picture today). So, stay tuned and I will blog tomorrow after the event.

UPDATE: The Kansas City Star story is online now.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Domestic partner registry in Lawrence passed, 4-1

The proposed domesitc partner registry passed its major hurdle tonight, passing on a 4-1 vote of the City Commission here in Lawrence. The vote was not technically a final vote on the ordinance; rather it was a vote by the Commission in favor of moving forward, having the city staff do some minor tweaking to the proposed ordinance which would then be sent back to the Commission for final approval at two consecutive meetings in June. The likely date for couples to actually register would be late summer.

Even though this wasn't the final adoption of the ordinance, it was the biggest hurdle for several reasons, among them this is the first time that two newly-elected commissioners, Mike Dever and Rob Chestnut could weigh in on the issue. There was also an extended period of public comment, with the vast majority speaking in favor, and only a couple folks opposed. Although all the legal issues with the registry have been addressed by the city attorney and state Attorney General, I wouldn't be surprised if right-wingers threaten a lawsuit to stop the registry.

Still, that is a worry for another day. For now, I want to thank our city commissioners for voting in favor of a law that will help make Lawrence a better place to live for its citizens and a better place to do business for its businesses.

If you have a minute, drop a quick line and thank Commissioners Sue Hack, Mike Dever, Rob Chestnut and Boog Highberger for supporting the ordinance.

Commissioner Mike Amyx was the only negative vote. I am disappointed in his vote, but I am hopeful that as he sees in the months and years ahead how this ordinance benefits his fellow Lawrencians that he will change his mind.

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Satan vs Beelzebub

I don't know who to root for.

But I know who to root against: both of them.

The copyright mafia that is the recording industry is upset at the vile Fred Phelps over his "church" making a vile parody of "We are the World"

The right to parody is firmly enshrined in federal law and has been upheld by the courts, most famously in the (ironic) case of Jerry Falwell vs Penthouse Magazine. I guess it is kind of nice to see the recording industry lawyers taking a break from suing old ladies and college kids over music "piracy" to go after a waste of oxygen like Fred Phelps, but I firmly believe that anyone who might want to exhibt some schadenfreund should resist the urge. Today, the recording industry targets Fred Phelps, tomorrow they might target someone or something more to your liking. The right to parody is part of free speech and must be upheld. Even when used by the Phelpses.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A bad man is dead

Jerry Falwell is dead. I am not going to celebrate his death, but neither will I mourn or try to find something "good" to say about him. Mr. Falwell was a hateful, bigoted man whose rhetoric was responsible for immense human suffering, and whose political actions assisted in the estrangement of vast numbers of American citizens from their civil and human rights. He will not be missed.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Domestic partnership registry discussion set

Two weeks from now, according to the paper. Expect a long meeting; the commission could do any one of several things; approve the registry, reject it, or take no action. They could also send it back to the city staff for more tweaking.

The responses of the commissioners to citizens' emails and letters has been very mixed. Boog Highberger gets extra credit for personally sending individual responses to several peoples' emails. Mike Amyx and Sue Hack have not replied to anyone's letters that I know. Mike Dever has been replying to emails, but he said he was too busy to meet Dave and I to talk about the issue in person, and Rob Chestnut has been sending everyone who writes him a form letter.

If you have read this and haven't yet emailed or called the city commissioners, please do so. Just click here and send an email. Public officials, even if they don't respond, do understand the volume of citizen contact, so if you care about the issue, drop a line.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Domestic bliss

Good news out of the Kansas Attorney General's office this afternoon, as his review of Lawrence's proposed domestic partnership registry was completed and the AG found nothing in the proposal that would not pass constitutional muster, although he did suggest to be 100% sure, Lawrence may want to restrict the registry to city residents.

You can read the complete memo if you want.

At this point, I feel a bit of annoyance that the AG couldn't have been a bit more punctual, since the outgoing City Commission would have passed this thing in a heartbeat. The incoming Commission, with two new members, is less certain, although I think that with the AG's imprimatur on the registry, there shouldn't be too much opposition and it will hopefully pass soon. If I had to predict, I would say the new Commission will direct city staff to add a section limiting the registry to city residents, and this will take a couple weeks. Figuring in a couple additional weeks for the new Commission to get settled in, I predict the registry will become law by mid to late May.

As a side note, given the new Commission's business-friendly makeup, I think strategically, it is very important to point out that the registry is not just a good idea out of fairness and human decency, but it will also be very good for the bottom line. There's a reason domestic partner benefits originally appeared in the high tech industry in Silicon Valley -- because those companies wanted to attract the kind of workers that made that region of America into the engine that has driven America's economy for the past 20 years. Enabling more businesses to provide these benefits would help Lawrence attract the kind of forward-looking and valuable companies and jobs that would help Lawrence's bottom line...making this city a better place to work and live.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Second verse, same as the first

The Lawrence City Commission general electrion saw the same top three finishers as the primary last month, in the exact same order. This means the of the three candidates I supported, only Boog made the cut. These results are good news for those who think Lawrence needs a couple additional Wal Marts and a few more empty apartment complexes and strip malls. I can almost feel those price rollbacks!

On a more serious note, this places the future of the domestic partner registry in the air. The city is still waiting for an opinion (due later this month) from the attorney general on whether such a registry would be legal in Kansas. At this point, I would say -- if I were a betting man -- that whichever way the AG comes down will be how the domestic regsitry will go. If he gives a thumbs up, I expect the registry to pass by at least a 3-2 vote; if the AG says the registry would be unconstitutional, I don't think it will even come up for a vote and as such would die. I guess we will have to wait and see what the attorney general says; hopefully he will help put some wind on the back of the DP registry and Lawrence will see this thing come to light.

Then, of course, registered same-sex couples can happily shop at the new Wal-Mart!

UPDATE: A good discussion with Diane over on her blog about strategy with the new city commission

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Vote tomorrow

If you live in Lawrence, your vote tomorrow can determine what kind of town we live in...do we want to be a suburb of Kansas City with a dying downtown, overbuilt bix box retail, and a few extra Wal-Mart's for good measure...or do we want to keep Lawrence looking and feeling like, well, Lawrence, with a lively downtown, good neighborhoods, and justice for gay and lesbian couples via a domestic partner registry?

I am voting for three candidates who have shown a dedication to keeping Lawrence as the livable place it is today:

Carey Maynard-Moody

David Schauner

Dennis "Boog" Highberger

As a side note, a fourth candidate, James Bush, has come out in favor of the DP registry; however, I am choosing not to vote for him since has has been endorsed by the Lawrence Board of Realtors, a group which makes money on cancer-like growth and suburban sprawl. However, Bush is certainly preferable to the final two candidates, Dever and Chestnut, both of whom have never seen an empty lot upon which a Wal Mart wouldn't look good.

For Lawrence school board, it looks like the candidates to support are (based on an NEA questionnaire which asked about providing domestic partner benefits to school staff):

Marlene Merrill
Rich Minder
Micael Pomes

Candidates Mary Loveland and Michael Machell said they were open to DP benefits, but both of them qualified their answers a bit; still, you can probably vote safely for them if you have other reasons for not voting for my three choices above.

Victor Sisk, the final candidate, said he did not know if he would support DP benefits.

UPDATE: Another reason to make sure to NOT vote for Dever and Chestnut...they both use intrusive and annoying telemarketing push polling in their campaigns.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Fourth City Commission candidate comes out in favor of domestic partnerships

Former Southern Baptist minister James Bush is much more progressive then I gave him credit for. I had thought he was a stealth candidate for the radical right -- I was wrong.

I have read the report the City Commission received from the city staff as well as reviewed the comments made by citizens of Lawrence and members of the City Commission. If I am elected to the City Commission, I would vote in favor of adopting the domestic registry. I support the registry because it affirms the relationship of domestic partners and it can provide employers an avenue to provide health insurance to employees who participate in the domestic registry. I think the big question now concerns how the Kansas Attorney Generalís office will rule on the proposal. - James Bush

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Thursday, March 15, 2007

Immoral principles

"The question is whether personal moral beliefs should disqualify an individual from positions of leadership in the U.S. military? We think not. General Paceís recent remarks do not deserve the criticism they have received. In fact, we applaud General Pace for maintaining a personal commitment to moral principles." - Kansas Senator Sam Brownback

The problem isn't Chairman Pace's moral principles, it is Pace's immoral principles -- such as the principle, shared by our Senator, that bigotry is not only something to tolerated, but something to be celebrated enthusiastically.

I think Pace would do better is a military leader in a different country that better shares his values, and Senator Brownback could probably find a good job there, too. Don't laugh -- apparently, the latest thing for right-wingers is the goal of a worldwide Islamic-right-wing Christian common cause to take (rhetorical, for now) arms against American and Western European ideas of liberty and freedom. Dinesh DeSouza just wrote a book about this. Here's a very good analysis of said book. Maybe Pace and Brownback have read it too.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The domestic partner registry: The Candidates speak

Below you will find the official pubic-stated opinions of all six Lawrence City Commission candidates on the proposed domestic partner registry for Lawrence. I am pretty sure that this is the first time all of these have been in one place for comparison. Click on each candidate's name to be linked to the complete interview from which the domestic registry opinion was excerpted.

A couple notable trends stand out:

1. The three "progressive" candidates are the only ones who forthrightly said "yes" they will support the registry.
2. None of the "developer" candidates gave an outright "no" answer, but none said "yes" either. All of them seemed to weasel out of giving any kind of straight answer (pun intended). Judging from the answers Dever and Chestnut gave, I think it may be possible to educate these folks on the need and desirability of a domestic partnership ordinance.

Even though the Kansas Equality PAC has officially endorsed the three progressive candidates (Maynard-Moody, Schauner, and Highberger), an endorsement I agree with, we should try to educate the other candidates as well about why the domestic partner ordinance is both good for business and good for the town as a whole. Both Dever and Chestnut I think could be brough around to this point of view, although I doubt Bush (as a Southern Baptist minister) would.

Anyway, here are the views of the six candidates:

Carey Maynard-Moody: I'm very supportive of it. Human rights should not distinguish between race, religion, gender, sexual orientation... We all benefit from protecting human rights.

David Schauner: Thanks for your inquiry about this important issue. I voted to support creation of the registry and believe that it will offer a valuable benefit to all unmarried couples without regard to sexual orientation if their employers choose to make those benefits available.

Boog Highberger: I support creation of a local domestic partnership registry. I share the view of former Attorney Phill Kline (as reported in the Journal World) that a domestic partnership registry would not conflict with the recently passed Marriage Amendment. A domestic partnership registry could help give a lot of Lawrence citizens access to health care benefits that they are not eligible for now.

Mike Dever: I am against discrimination of any kind. I believe that we as a community must be prepared to defend the rights of our citizens. I need to become more informed on this issue to be able to make a sound decision as a commissioner if I am elected.

Rob Chestnut: I would like to ensure that we are not going to have any legal entanglements going forward in considering the domestic partner registry. Secondly, I need to understand more about the potential benefits that it offers citizens of Lawrence. I am not aware of those employers that offer benefits to domestic partners, so I would like to make an informed decision on the impact of the ordinance. Finally, I would like to know what the cost is to the city. This would allow me to make an informed decision.

James Bush: Thank you for asking this question that so many in the community are pondering during this election season. I haven't seen the actual wording of the proposed ordinance so I may be at a disadvantage to address specific language but, I do have an opinion. First, I am opposed to discrimination in any form. I do know the city has an ordinance that addresses discrimination in hiring practices. The questions I have in regard to this registry is what the economic impacts are from such a registry and have these consequences been fully considered.

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Sunday, February 25, 2007

Primary colors

Lawrence's City Commission primary election is on Tuesday. The election will narrow down the current field of nine candidates to six. These six will then compete in the April general election for three seats on the Commission.

It has been quite a while since there has been such a clear stratification amongst all the candidates in a city election. The candidates are grouped into three groups of three...it's almost like a tic-tac-toe board.

Three "progressive" candidates:

Dennis 'Boog' Highberger
David Schauner
Carey Maynard-Moody

Three "Real Estate/Chamber of Commerce" candidates

James Bush
Rob Chestnut
Mike Dever

And three long-shot/vanity candidates:

Jake Davis
Sam Fields
Michael Limburg

For background info, the Lawrence Journal World has a decent section including a quiz where you can match your political opinion against the candidates to find out who to vote for.

The main issue in my opinion is the perennial issue of how to manage growth. The fact is, Lawrence is a very desirable place to live, and we have a lot of people who want to move here, and a lot of businesses, especially national chains who want to expand further into Lawrence. In spite of the simplistic tendency of some to divide the camps into "pro-growth" and "anti-growth" groupings, all the candidates, "progressive" and "chamber" alike favor allowing Lawrence to grow. The difference comes in how this growth is managed. In my opinion, the "chamber" candidates tend to be much more in favor of rampant and poorly-planned growth, including the approval of large national chains without considering quality of life and infrastructure/planning issues. The progressive candidates tend to favor more deliberative attitudes towards growth, taking into account the needs of established neighborhoods and better planning for traffic and infrastructure issues.

While I certainly do not feel everything the current progressive-dominated commission has done is perfect (their botching of negotiations over a second Wal-Mart will come back to haunt Lawrence), I trust them much more on making sure Lawrence remains a desirable place to live then the so-called business or chamber candidates. I do not think Lawrence needs to bend over backwards to encourage sprawl or national chain growth, and I want a commission which will take neighborhood desires and quality of life into consideration when making decisions.

For this reason, I am going to vote for the "progressive" three candidates:

Dennis 'Boog' Highberger
David Schauner
Carey Maynard-Moody

You should vote for them as well.

It is likely that these three, along with the three chamber folks will win the six spots on the general election ballot, setting up a clear contest in April. The other three folks have huge pocketbooks (they have been endorsed by the Board of Realtors, who view growth much the same way cancer cells do) and the three progressive folks need all the support and help they can get.

A brief side note on the domestic partner registry is worth mentioning. The three progressive candidates support it; the three chamber candidates have refused to take any position, pro or con. If you believe in equal rights, this is another reason to vote for Highberger, Schauner and Maynard-Moody.

And a last note...
One of the three "chamber" candidates is a man by the name of James Bush. He is a minister at the First Southern Baptist Church in Lawrence, a denomination known for its extremely intolerant views on the human rights of gays and lesbians. It strikes me as very odd that a minister from such a church is running for office. I can't believe he was driven to stand for office by strong opinions on zoning and sewer planning. I suspect he is a "stealth candidate" for the radical right. He has consistently refused to say anything about his social beliefs during the campaign, for obvious reasons, given that Lawrence is a very liberal city and his views on issues like the domestic partner registry and other social issues would not go over well.

And, it gets better. My husband's business group pays rent each week to meet at the church. Mr. Bush asked the group to pass out literature, speak to the group, and for them to endorse him...all on church grounds, which violates IRS regulations. But that's just man's law, not God's law, right?

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Friday, February 02, 2007

Marriage is good and protected in Michigan

The truth that "protecting marriage" apparently requires gay people to lose their employer-provided health care benefits was proven true in Michigan today as a court ruled that Michigan's anti-gay marriage amendment (adopted in 2004) doesn't allow cities or state universities to grant health care benefits to the partners of their gay employees.

This is similar, but not quite the same issue as the situation here in Lawrence; in Michigan the issue is employment benefits; in Lawrence the proposed ordinance is a symbolic public registry, but if, say, the University of Kansas were to grant benefits, then a situation such as they have in Michigan would be set up here.

Either way, this proves that in expanding these various amendments to do more then merely ban gay marriage, the right wing supporters of these measures are intending to do exactly what actually happened in Michigan - take away people's health care and go way beyond "protecting marriage" to actively try to harm gay people living in their state.

Hopefully, city and university administrators can re-rig their health care plans to perhaps cover "any designated adult" or something like that, rather then specifying a "spouse" or "domestic partner" -- that would insure that people don't lose their health care coverage.

Or maybe a new amendment can be drafted that would strip health insurance from bigots. One can dream, I suppose.

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Thursday, February 01, 2007

Conservatives are in favor of local control of government...

...Except when they're not.

In a state where marriage is quite definitely "protected" from the depravations of loving gay couples thanks to a constitutional amendment approved by voters two years ago, it looks like even that isn't enough for a random state legislator, Lance Kinzer, who hails from Olathe, but somehow thinks he should be able to tell the citizens of Lawrence what kind of local ordinances they are allowed to pass. He has introduced a bill that would prohibit cities such as Lawrence from adopting any kind of domestic partner registries or programs.


Lawrence, you might recall, was the only county in Kansas to vote against the marriage amendment, and it did so by an overwhelming margin. The city commissioners of Lawrence are planning on implementing a domestic partner registry. Although the reigstry cannot counter state law, and will be basically symbolic, it is an important statement that clearly reflects the will of the citizens of Lawrence.

Representative Lance Kinzer has no right to tell Lawrence what ordinances it may adopt. Home rule is a fundamental building block of our system of government, and it basically means that cities are free to govern themselves and enact any ordinances they see fit so long as they do not violate state law. The legislature has the power to enforce uniform state law on any subject it wishes, but this power is to be used sparingly, on the principle that local control is the best.

There is no matter of statewide concern here. Lawrence's registry doesn't force other cities to do anything, nor does it violate state law (unless a court or the Attorney General say otherwise; and there will certainly be a suit to determine this).

The reason Lance Kinzer is trying to tell the people of Lawrence what to do is bigotry. He cannot abide by the thought that anywhere in this state there might be a city where gay people are actually thought by the majority of their neighbors to be fully human. The Kansas legislature is hardly a bastion of liberalism, but I doubt the leadership is spoiling for a "culture war" fight this year. Hopefully this disgusting bill will die alone in a committee, and the people of Lawrence -- and Olathe -- can make of their communities what they wish.

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