News moves fast here in Kansas. This was my article for the KC Star this Sat. Turns out – the bill died in the Senate and AT&T did come out against the HB2453 bill in Kansas. From the AT&T press release:
“As a major employer and retailer in Kansas, we strongly urge the Kansas Senate to reject HB 2453,” AT&T Kansas President Steve Hahn said in a release. “This legislation is impossible to implement. The bill promotes discriminatory behavior by businesses against their customers; and, it interferes with AT&T’s management of our employees. It eliminates the use of fair business practices with customers in Kansas. We applaud Senator Wagle’s leadership in pointing out the variety of problems with the bill.”
Well done AT&T. You have gained a loyal customer.
The 2014 Olympics is underway in Sochi, Russia. Much of the buzz surrounding this Olympics has been around Russia’s tough, anti-gay laws.
Russia has a law called the “anti-propaganda against nontraditional sexual relations” law. Whew… that’s a mouthful. This law prohibits many Russians from
speaking out in favor of gay rights, marching in gay pride parades and often penalizes gay rights groups in Russia with high fines.
It is so bad, that some U.S. Olympic sponsors have come out against the anti-gay laws in Russia. AT&T, a long-standing U.S. Olympic sponsor, came out publicly on its consumer blog writing an entry titled “A Time for Pride and Equality.”
From the blog: “AT&T has a long and proud history of support for the LGBT community in the United States and everywhere around the world where we do business. We support LGBT equality globally and we condemn violence, discrimination and harassment targeted against LGBT individuals everywhere. Russia’s law is harmful to LGBT individuals and families, and it’s harmful to a diverse society.”
Take that Russia. AT&T is standing up and shining a light on the LGBT discrimination in Russia. AT&T stands up for the LGBT community and condemns discrimination unless.… Wait there is an unless?
Yes, unless you are gay and in Kansas. That’s just crazy talk. Kansas is no Russia when it comes to anti-gay policy.
There is a world of difference between the two. Or is there?
I give you exhibit A — Kansas HB 2453 or the Act Concerning Religious Freedom with Respect to Marriage Bill. HB2453 says that it doesn’t matter if gay marriage is found to be legal and recognized — no business or individual with “sincerely held religious beliefs” needs to recognize the marriage or provide services, employment benefits or anything else for that matter to gay couples.
Here’s the kicker — there is language in the bill that says that gay people can’t sue for discrimination to challenge the law or the decision of the business owner. If I’m a hotel owner and a gay couple wants to stay at my hotel to celebrate their wedding, I don’t have to give them a room and can claim it’s against my sincere religious beliefs.
Supporters of the bill say providing goods and services to gay couples against the employer’s religious freedom is an attack on the First Amendment.
Now what does this have to do with AT&T? From the “things that make you go hmmm…” file — AT&T invests millions in the state of Kansas. In the first half of 2013, AT&T invested $110 million in capital investments in the state.
It’s kind of odd that they would condemn Russia’s laws, but still continue to invest millions in a state with similar LGBT discrimination laws making its way through the Legislature. Lets’ face it Kansas is just one drink of strong Russian vodka away from enacting the same type of anti-gay laws that Russia is notorious for.
AT&T, I ask you take it one step further and condemn this anti-gay law here in Kansas. Big business has a big voice when it comes to shaping legislation outcomes. Believe me, with the type of money AT&T invests in our state, it will have the ears of our Kansas Legislature if the corporation speaks up against this law.
I have faith that AT&T’s strong stand against discrimination won’t stop after the Olympics are long gone. Keep up the great work, AT&T, and take a stand right here in Kansas.