In response to a bill passed in the Kansas House of Representatives allowing private businesses to deny service to same-sex couples on the basis of the business’s religious beliefs, Massachusetts Treasurer and gubernatorial candidate Steve Grossman sent a letter to Kansas Senate President Susan Wagle urging her to reject the bill in the Senate.
In his letter, sent Sunday, Grossman regarded the bill as “beyond reprehensible,” claiming that it denies same-sex couples in Kansas the rights promised to them in the Fourteenth Amendment: life, liberty and property.
“The question of whether Kansas chooses to accept history’s arc of justice bending further toward equality remains for you to answer,” he said in the letter. “This attempt to segregate citizens on the basis of their sex or gender is an embarrassment to all people, in Kansas and across the United States.”
Jon Ostrowsky, the policy director on Grossman’s campaign for governor, said Grossman has played a leadership role in the LGBT community for 15 years, and the bill angered him, not only as a gubernatorial candidate but also as a Massachusetts citizen.
“At a time when 17 states and the District of Columbia allow citizens to marry whomever they love and be treated equally with fairness and justice, Steve wanted to make sure that his voice was added to all of those voices across the country, that he was standing clearly and proudly with the LGBT community to say that this bill is not ok,” he said.
Boston Pride, a nonprofit organization that works for equality for the global LGBT community, applauded Grossman for taking a stance against the discriminatory bill.
Sylvain Bruni, the group’s president, said the organization does not endorse any candidates, but they are proud to see Grossman, as well as other gubernatorial candidates including Attorney General Martha Coakley, Juliette Kayyem and Charlie Baker, standing up for equal treatment of all citizens.
“It is a testament to the state we live in, the fact that we have political people, whether they’re on the left or the right of the political spectrum, that actually do believe in equality,” he said. “Whoever becomes governor in November, they will have to be vocal about this topic. They will have to defend those values of tolerance and acceptance and equality that our Commonwealth cherishes.”
Brian Camenker, president of MassResistance, a Massachusetts-based group that supports traditional marriage, said Grossman should not be spending his campaign time speaking out against the Kansas bill.
“He’s obviously playing for a fairly radical special interest in the Democratic party,” he said. “He should be talking about things in Massachusetts, not something 1,000 miles away in the Midwest, just to please a radical special interest group that he’s trying to carry support from.”
Several residents said they support Grossman’s letter to Wagle and hope the Kansas Senate will take his concerns into consideration when voting on the bill.
Anita Dossabhoy, 23, of Boston, said Grossman is taking advantage of an opportunity to create equal treatment of same-sex couples in all states, not only Massachusetts.
“Everyone should be equal in this country,” she said. “It’s important to have people back everyone up. Love is love. At the end of the day, it’s the United States. We’re one country. It has to start somewhere.”
Keitha King, 38, of Dorchester, said she supports Grossman’s stance on the Kansas legislation, but he should be focusing on state issues during his campaign, rather than issues in other states.
“I have nothing against gay marriage, so I’m with him with that,” she said. “[But] we have nothing to do with Kansas, and he should be worried about what’s going on in his own state, — not another state. It’s not something he should go out of his way for. Home is first.”
John Holmgren, 26, of Roxbury, said Grossman’s campaign for governor is in its early stages, but this letter will encourage him to vote for Grossman in the November election.
“Any law that discriminates based on sexual orientation or religion is a law that shouldn’t belong in the 21st century,” he said. “… Anyone who supports trying to get rid of that state of mind is someone that I would vote for. It’s someone who is thinking forward, instead of thinking backward.”