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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

What's the matter with Kansas legislators?

I hate to pick on Kansas, my neighbor just a block and a half to the west. After all, Kansas has already has plenty to atone for with state board of education members who want to do away with teaching evolution in schools and the vile Fred Phelps and his clan of inbred cretins roaming the countryside with their "God Hates Fags" signs. But sometimes Kansas (or, more accurately, "Kansans") do or say something so stupid it brings an issue so clearly into focus that it can't help but being held up as a shining example of what NOT to do or say.

Case in point: Last week the Kansas Supreme Court unanimously decided that the state could not punish illegal sex more harshly if it involves homosexual acts rather than heterosexual conduct. The justices also struck down language in the law that led to a sentence of more than 17 years in prison for Matthew R. Limon.

Limon, who was 18 at the time, was convicted of having oral sex with a 14-year-old boy. Granted, the act was illegal. No question about that. But, had Limon engaged in oral sex with a 14-year-old girl, his sentence would be a maximum of 15 months. In light of the Lawrence v. Texas U.S. Supreme Court decision, the Kansas high court had little choice but to overturn the lower court.

Legal precedent aside, the right-wingers in Kansas - of whom there are legion - went wild. Accusing the State Supreme Court of "legislating from the bench," the right-wingnuts renewed their calls for a state constitutional amendment giving the state Senate the right to approve Supreme Court nominees. "Legislating from the bench" (Kansas's version of the "activist judges" charge Republicans toss around) first came up when the Kansas Supreme Court ordered the legislature to increase funding on public education. After posturing and grumbling, the legislature finally complied. Now, with the court siding with one of those (gasp!) homo-seck-shuls, the right-wingers could wrap themselves in both the flag and the Bible against the bitter winds of common sense blowing across the prairie.

There are plenty of just-plain-dumb statements made by Kansas lawmakers and reported in press accounts about the story.

For instance there this from House Judiciary Chairman Mike O'Neal, a Hutchinson Repugnantcan: "All we ask is, tell us what the rules are, and we'll play by those rules. The court here seems to be changing those rules on a case-by-case basis." (D'uh! Apparently Mr. O'Neal is at least two years behind in reading up on U.S. Supreme Court cases.)

Or even this one from Rep. Lance Kinzer, an Olathe Republican: "You have the court substituting its moral judgment for the moral judgment of the people, as expressed through the legislative body."

Kinzer also offered this gem of a statement: "The Legislature has to make moral distinctions between groups of people based on their conduct. That's what lawmaking is all about."

But if I was awarding a prize for the absolute dumbest thing a Kansas legislator said about the Kansas Supreme Court's decision in the Limon case it would go to Sen. Phil Journey, a Republican attorney from Haysville. Journey defended different treatment of illegal gay and straight sex, saying "a homosexual relationship will damage a victim more because of how society views such conduct."

So let's get this straight, so to speak: Society (and by that I assume Journey means "them God-fearin' normal Amurkins" he knows from his Rotary Club, Baptist Church and KKK rallies) disdains homos, so when a homo does something illegal he should be punished more harshly because society takes a dim view of homos.

Ah, such twisted, tortured, circuitous logic! So if suddenly when the sun comes up tomorrow society decides that Rotarians are intrinsically disordered or that Baptists are evil predators, then I suppose it would be alright to sentence them to jail for 13.6 times as long as a Methodist member of the Optimist Club who committed the same crime.

What the reactionary social conservatives fail to realize is that they cannot maintain the status quo. If society takes a dim view of "such conduct," then the problem lies in society's perceptions ... and those are what needs to change.

It reminds me of something psychotherapist Ernest van den Haag said as the American Psychiatric Association was considering removing homosexuality from its list of illnesses during the 1970s: "I am reminded of a colleague who reiterated 'All my homosexual patients are quite sick' - to which I finally replied 'So are all my heterosexual patients.'"

It's a shame there aren't legislators who think like van den Haag in Kansas. If there were, maybe they'd understand that when it comes to antiquated societal attitudes toward homosexuality are the real problem searching for a cure.