Today I’m Embarrassed That I Live in Kansas—Here’s Why.

Via Daniel Scharpenburg
on Feb 7, 2014
get elephant's newsletter


We are next to Colorado, but worlds away.

People know that Kansas is one of the most conservative states, I think—and you might have heard of Fred Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church and their message of hate.

Today something happened that is making local news but I don’t know if the news will go national.

The Kansas House has approved a bill that shields Kansans who refuse to serve same sex couples because in Kansas, homophobia is considered religious liberty.

House Bill 2453 was introduced by representative Charles Macheers, a republican from Shawnee. For those of you that don’t know, Shawnee is a suburb of Kansas City. This isn’t the part of Kansas that is full of almost nothing but grasslands and cows—this is the part of Kansas that’s right next to Missouri.

The bill was created for a specific reason. Kansas has a same-sex marriage ban, as some other states do. Now, I think we can all be pretty confident that in a few years all of the state bans on same-sex marriage will be overturned at the Federal level—that seems to be where the courts are going—and even the backward thinking people that want to stop gay marriage at all costs can see that.

So, they came up with a plan: if this bill is made law, then, even if the Federal government forces all the states to recognize gay marriage, (in the same way that states were forced to recognize interracial marriage and to not recognize polygamy) the anti-gay movement will still have options.

Even if gay marriage is legal in Kansas, courthouse employees wouldn’t have to issue marriage licenses to gay couples if they don’t want to.

So, if you and your husband or wife go to get a marriage license, you can be turned away—and the court clerk refusing to do their job can’t be fired or reprimanded in any way.


Because they have religious freedom—and their religion tells them to be a dick.

I’m of the opinion that if your religion makes you want to be a dick, you’re probably doing it wrong.

Isn’t this pointless? I suppose that when it finally is legal, any gay couple will be able to eventually find the right circumstances to get their marriage license.

All this serves to do is make it less convenient…and make humans feel inferior.

But that’s a problem too, isn’t it?

It’s been said that the bill is vague enough that private companies could use it to discriminate too. Is this really where we are in the 21st century?

What if the court clerk decided that he wouldn’t issue marriage licenses to men that don’t have full beards? That’s in the Bible too. A religious argument could be made that not trimming your beard is just as important as not having gay sex.

I’m not a Christian and maybe that’s why I don’t understand. Who the hell decided that the part of the Bible that said you can’t have gay sex was important but the part that said don’t trim your beard wasn’t? It’s from Leviticus, right?

Don’t trim your beard, don’t have long hair if you’re a man, don’t eat shellfish, if your daughter is raped she has to marry the rapist. Why was the gay sex thing singled out as important anyway?

The implications of this are far reaching—and all because the Kansas House wants everyone to know that they really really are not comfortable with two dudes kissing.


Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!


Editor: Bryonie Wise


About Daniel Scharpenburg

Daniel Scharpenburg lives in Kansas City with two kids and two cats. He teaches classes in Buddhist studies at the Rime Buddhist Center, where he's starting a Zen meditation group in the near future. He's studied with a wide variety of different Buddhist teachers and is a dedicated follower of the Zen tradition. He received personal instruction from Shi Da Dao, in the Caodong (Soto) tradition, and he has served as jisha (personal attendant) to Karen Maezen Miller on a Zen retreat. He's the writer of Notes from a Buddhist Mystic Find out more about Daniel on his blog and connect with him on Facebook and  Twitter.


38 Responses to “Today I’m Embarrassed That I Live in Kansas—Here’s Why.”

  1. Guest says:

    If you have such a big problem with this… MOVE TO COLORADO!!!

  2. Hopeful says:

    I read your post and loved it. I love the fact that you are speaking out against this. Just as I love the fact that you say, "I’m of the opinion that if your religion makes you want to be a dick, you’re probably doing it wrong." I think this the best quote I have ever seen. There should be shirts and bumper stickers for it. Because you are right. I have been Christian and Muslim, and I believe many other religions while I was figuring it all out, and every religion I have ever studied always talks about loving one another as the most important part. Sure, there are guidelines as to how to live your life but it always seems most important to be a good person and leave the judging up to God. Many would argue with me but I believe God to know what God wants better than I.

  3. @53_sled says:

    So brave, as an anonymous poster. Two dudes kissing has no harmful impact on me as a hetero. There is no christian doctrine for it either. Unless you want to bring back ALL of the old testament. There goes t-shirts.

    Seriously, what harm?

  4. Sara says:

    I can see where you're coming from. I really can. But how would you feel if the government just stayed out of marriage altogether?

  5. Daniel Scharpenburg says:


    I had to really consider how to respond to your comment. Usually my belief is that if it seems like someone is trolling I should ignore them.

    I will only say this: why should I move? I’m not the one that’s wrong.

    Several decades ago the movement for racial equality was going on in the South. The people that supported equality didn’t simply move to the north where things were better. They stayed and spoke out against injustice instead.

    Shouldn’t I do the same?

  6. Daniel Scharpenburg says:

    I think there’s not really a movement for that in this country. That would be more fair than the system in place now.
    My only concern is how that would affect things like child custody, inheritances, visiting your spouse in the hospital, etc.

    I guess what I’m saying is it would involve a lot of reworking regarding the way we do things. Not that that’s good or bad, but I don’t think there is a serious movement to get the government to stop recognizing marriage in this country.

  7. Henry says:

    I agree–marriage should be a religious rite which. A (supposedly) secular government has no business permitting or forbidding people to take part in religious practice.

  8. danielschar says:

    and I don't really see a compelling reason to do something that would be such a big restructuring of society.

  9. Ben Doup says:

    It is a shame that Kansas is so backward. I live I’n Missouri and see it first hand, my state has issues too.

    The only thing I take exception to is the cows thing if you had been here in the last 30 years you would know the only cows here are already cut up into delicous steaks

  10. Kelli says:

    "I’m of the opinion that if your religion makes you want to be a dick, you’re probably doing it wrong." Best argument I've seen so far! Brilliantly succint!

  11. Daniel says:

    Makes me even happier to live in Canada. The Federal Government made same sex legal accross the country in 2006, some provinces were just a head of the rest.

    The Sky has not fallen. Churches are not forced to sanction same sex marriages(Though many do willingly). Life goes on and really nothing has changed at all.

    I work in the wedding industry. I have been in it for about 14 years. I have yet to have the pleasure of doing a same sex wedding reception. Our company has only done 2 since it has been legalized…and we we put out on average 3 or 4 wedding gigs a week during the summer. It is just such a small portion of all the weddings.

    To all the Americans out there legalizing Same Sex Marriage won’t change a thing in your lives. Honestly you won’t even notice the difference.

  12. Yes, we Kansans should be more forward-looking, just like the folks in my old state of Illinois, which gave us Obama the Incompetent, is going broke, and recently had two former governors in prison concurrently.

  13. Jim n GA says:

    Hi Daniel, I understand your sentiment about not moving. The good news is that this will likely be struck down as unconstitutional but of course that will be a long haul through the courts.These kinds of actions are just the dying breath of a fallen dragon, they are trying to be seen as alive but they are soon to be gone.

  14. @karltross says:

    welcome to kansas turn your clocks at least 100 years….i can,t believe they were soooooooo narrow minded they think this would be legal and kansans will spend good money ,that could be put to good use, fighting this in the courts,and they will…this law has nothing to do with the practices of religion….its stupidity of those that think that being gay is just a decision…oh lord forgive for they no not what they don't know…..and no i am not gay just believe in what was made by a supreme being should not be judged by beings….so come on KANSAS grow up and move forward for once

  15. danielschar says:

    Honestly, Daniel,

    I think in ten years everyone in this country will be embarrassed that this was even an issue.

  16. danielschar says:

    Are you trolling?

    Your website implies that you're a small government guy. Is that true?

    Can bans on gay marriage be justified under small government principles?

  17. Nicole says:

    My question is why should polygamy be illegal but not gay marriage? Isn’t it all a matter of preference of morals and such? I mean, where do we draw the line? Aren’t all laws based on some sort of morals and ethics system? There’s so much gray area. Who gets to make the call on which sins are ok to be legal and which aren’t?

  18. Jim says:

    Marriage began as a secular rite. It was society's legal recognition of a partnership based on economic interests. Religion didn't get involved until WAAAAAY after, as a way for leaders like kings and queens to make their marriages seem more important than those of the commoners. See, by having a bishop or cardinal officiate their marriage, rather than the local chief/village headguy, they could say their marriage was ordained by God, and therefore was "better" than that of some dirt farmer who paid them a tithe. So once again, religion provides nothing to the ceremony other than to exclude people that the religious folk think they're better than.

    In other words, get your religion out of my secular rite.

  19. MBliss says:

    Can bans of any kind on basic human rights and liberties be justified under any circumstances?

  20. hopeful says:

    I love this whole post. Everyone is equal. No matter what. What I like is at the end you say no one wants to see two guys kissing…BUT ya know it’s ok when two girls kiss. This is what makes no sense, people that are against gay marriage probably don’t see two girls kissing or screwing around as a big deal because it’s “hot”. All people are doing is contradicting themselves. And honestly I’m sure a gay marriage would last longer than a real marriage these days. Maybe if others would stay out of everybody else’s relationships they could fix their own.

  21. amy says:

    Exactly. Bravo. My Dad is a gay man. And so is my daughter. They are so dear to me a d reading these laws make me so angry and dumbfounded. These laws have the same exclusionary effect as Nuremberg laws did. There is a scary escalation of discrimination here. No different than Germany pre wwii. Mr guest man can Tell the millions that died in Germany that they should have moved too. He is an oaf! Love to you. Amy

  22. angie says:

    Daniel, You don't allow people who have a different opinion to post on your article? I guess that's why I wouldn't subscribe or read your stuff anymore! I will say this and i don't care if you allow my opinion or not It must be said!!!!! Has anyone ever wonder why anyone allows the Westboro Baptist Church any air time? That family says they are Christians but all you have to do is look at the bible to see one's actions don't line up with the word of God. They go around and spouting out all these hateful things in the name of all Christian! They are allowed to have all this recognition to discredit all Christians i do believe! Just because i don't believe in same sex marriage does not mean i hate anyone! Jesus Christ never went around being hateful and he is a prefect teacher if you know his words and have discernment you too would know this to be true! Let's STOP calling this family Christians PLEASE!!

  23. Evan Charles says:

    Your daughter is a gay man?

  24. Moshe bin-Menachem says:

    What a great well-thought-out article. Religion plays a big role in the lives of many. It plays a big role in my life, as much as the next person. One thing I think, religiously speaking, is that many “Christians” take from what is considered their “old testament” or portions of my Torah and read only a small verse and draw conclusions on that. One thing they lack is: A. Torah study, B. The Talmud. When a Christian reads a verse in Vayikra (Leviticus) and sees specific laws laid out for a specific society at a specific time they see it as an end-all and consider it done. A Jew on the other hand reads it and understands it for what it is in its own time and place for its specified purpose. A Christian does not then turn to the other Prophets, Sages, and Torah scolars for clarification. A Christian is also at a major disadvantage not being able to read or interpret litergical Hebrew. The “verse” that is constantly used to “bash” homosexuals reads nothing like it is printed in almost every Christian bible. A direct translation reads more something to the effect that a man should not bring this male concubine/house boy/man-servant to the front door of his home or of The Temple. (side note I did not bother finding an re-reading the verse).

    I just felt compelled to also share my feelings that “hate” did not spring up from what is called by Christians as “the old testament.” That there is a lot of misinterpretation and it is unfortunately used to bash, rather than studied and examined and then used to improve ourselves.

    G-d love you all. He created you exactally how you were intended to be. So, be yourself. Be the person G-d created not the person some ignorant person with a narrow mind and vision wants to pigeon-hole you to be.

    Good Shabbos!

  25. Jim says:

    Just a couple of things. The ban on same sex is not only in the old testament. It is also in Romans in the new testament. If you believe in God and the teachings of the Bible then I would think that following it's rules would be paramount in your mind or why bother. if you are going to take out what you like and don't like out of the Bible, then can you really be following your religious beliefs? I have no problem with Civil Unions. The problem arises when you use the word Marriage. To the person that stated Marriage was a secular practice first, I have no idea where in the world you get that view. Marriage was and is always a religious ceremony. As for this law, people should not be forced to act against their religious beliefs because someone else doesn't feel the same way. This law came about because of a small bakery in the Northwest that was owned by a Christian couple that made wedding cakes. A gay couple wanted them to make them a cake and they refused on religious grounds. They have since been attacked and protested against by the gay community and the liberal state they live in is looking in to civil rights prosecution, OVER A CAKE! The couple had many other places to get a cake but they went about to ruin these peoples lives and business. Would they have been so bold if it had been a Muslim couple? I mean in the Muslim world they stone and behead gays every day. If you want to be upset about something, do something about that. Good grief there are places in this country you can't eat in with out a coat and tie. Most merchants have the right to refuse service to anyone and even post it on their doors. This is just to preserve that right for Christians who are being singled out as a focus of the LGBT community. They want their rights over all the rights of everyone else, including someones personal religious rights and beliefs.

  26. mjc says:

    Just found this site through a friend. I see many things here that I like and some I dislike. I am from Kansas. I have always lived here. I do not hate my state, I am a little ashamed right now. I have always been ashamed that we have Fred Phelps gang as well. But they do not define me. I am not them. I am a Christian, or I try to be at least. Thankfully GOD loves me even though I fail some times. GOD loves all in my belief and we are born the way we are born. My family has several gay/lesbian members and I would not change any of them. They are who they are. I have no right to try and change them or enforce stupid laws against them. I know government spends our money foolishly, as they spent wasted time on this latest bill, so I hope for all our sakes they spend some more to undo this stupid, outdated, discriminatory, bill so that it does not become law. Live and let live. Seriously they are not hurting anyone, not killing anyone, not stealing from anyone, not forcing anyone to do anything they don't want to do. Business has the right to refuse service to anyone, no reason necessary, so big deal this company won't make a cake, find someone that will, you don't need a law for it. The entire world has become SUE happy. sue them for this or that. No laws or lawsuits needed, just say no and move on. Someone will want your money for the cake or reception, etc. I just hope a list is posted somewhere of all the stupid people who work for or run business's so that I as a straight person can also NOT do business with them. I really think there are more people who will not do business with folks when they find out that they are so pig headed and closed minded that they won't be in business very long.

  27. Jim says:

    Hmmm…. scared of independent thought? My comments hasn't been posted and reading this lets me know you are filtering out counter points of view. You are guilty of what you seem to hate in others, intolerance.

  28. pinionsandlace says:

    I'm a strong Christian yet I believe marriage equality should be legal. Why? Because we allow all non -Christian same sex couples to get married. Buddhists, Hindu's, Atheists can get married and will never be told no because they are same sex. What makes me sad is that Christians have allowed their views determine what the law says. We have our own beliefs and they shouldn't be forced onto others. Church and State are separate for a reason. If these people considered marriage to be so sacred then their wouldn't be divorce, and their is. But in Romans it says that's not allowed either.

    Instead of hate and intolerance let's fight for a culture that doesn't force ideals on one another and embraces acceptance. I can have my opinion and you can have yours. There is a place where we can see things differently and still be friends AND love each other. We are all unique and created differently. I know that Jesus loves me and that I'm saved, but that doesn't mean what I believe is law in the United States. Everyone deserves a chance for a marriage and for a family.

    Oh and did I mention I live in Texas? There are some of us in the south that are fighting for this. We just need our voices to be heard. Don't let some Christians that are scared and in fear determine your view of all of us. I can't stand narrow mindedness no matter who it's coming from.

  29. Daniel Scharpenburg says:

    Because moderation of comments has been mentioned twice:

    This isn’t my website. I have no control over the comments section here. Even my comments have to be moderated before they appear.

  30. angie says:

    I agree 100% Jim!!

  31. Daniel Scharpenburg says:


    Is it your argument that 10% of the population shouldn’t be given equal rights because polygamy is illegal?

  32. D. Bruce Stevens says:

    In my opinion, circumstances like this serve a positive and crucial purpose. They highlight insidious attitudes and actions that really need a spotlight on them, and which need to be changed on a fundamental level by legal proceedings. Consider what could happen here…a couple in Kansas is denied a marriage license, and that denial is defended by this ridiculous law. The couple sues, and the Court decides that it could not be proven that the denial of the marriage license was based on any real religious right, and/or that the couple's rights took precedence over the veiled bigotry. That sets a precedence that other Courts follow, and effectively prohibits this from happening again.

  33. Daniel Scharpenburg says:


    Aren’t Paul’s letters just one man’s opinion regarding what parts of the Hebrew scriptures are important?

    If it was an important issue, Christ probably would have mentioned it.

    in any case, it doesn’t matter if your religion says the government should ban gay marriage.

    This is not a theocracy.

  34. angie says:

    They are doning the same thing to me Jim! My thoughts exactly!

  35. Roxanne D says:

    Aren’t church and state supposed to be kept separate? Why do people continue to throw these two together when they obviously don’t mix. As an agnostic with extremely right-wing anti-gay parents I’ve heard all of their ignorant religious rants about homosexuality and it makes me sick. If we all turned a shoulder to this happening, gay marriage wouldn’t even have a foot to stand on. As long as those of us who do care and are living in this century continue to speak out, gay marriage will also continue to be legalized regardless of those who try as they might to strike it down. I hate when people try to justify their actions with bible quotes. To me this signifies they are scared and are grasping at straws to somehow keep their ignorant views alive. Oh well…. they will fail.

  36. Bob Antol says:

    And may G-d love and bless you , Moshe . You have well expressed my position on these matters as no one else has. "He has created you exactly how you were intended to be. So be yourself. Be the person of g-d created not the person not the person some……………….person wants to pigeon hole you to be.Well stated. It is not for us to judge nor know for certain what G-ds plan for us is to be, or should be. He will reveal that in due time. I do however take issue with you in placing all Christians together as one in mind and spirit. There are many good and kind and spiritual Christians who study the testaments in there entirety. How can one fully appreciate the New Testament without placing it within the contexts of the Old Testament. Study of the Christian "Talmud " and also placed in context of the Judges, Prophets, wisdom, Poetry and history of the other writings . Not all Christians narrow-mindedly isolate verses to their own ends and agenda but seek the truth in the whole of the Judeo-Christian experience. You are correct in that we are not able to experience the Old Testament from the Hebrew writings and experience and interpretations. For that I am sorry and have recognized that limitation years ago. I thank you for insight.

  37. Bob Antol says:

    Marriage is a religious rite for the religious. Their must always be civil recognition of marriages and other civil unions for legal purposes such as child custody, inheritance, hospital visitation and power of attorneys just to name some. Has it occurred to you that not all people are religious and not all couples are joined together by a religious rite.?

  38. Bob Antol says:

    God is mindfulness it self. Apply it to any religious or philosophical tradition. We look through the glass darkly unable to see the light on the other side clearly. For Christians, I urge them to read the story of the woman who married 7 brothers according to old Jewish tradition in the Old Testament. Who's wife will she be in the next. Jesus answers, " you do not know the scriptures or the Power of God. People will neither marry, nor be given in marriage; they will be like angels in heaven. Could it possibly be that God sees neither male or female, rich or poor, white or black? Hmmmm. Perhaps we are all the same to Him. He does not see what is on the outside but looks within. Things to ponder I think. See also matt. 7 on judging others. Do not judge lest you too will be judged. In the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.