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March 5, 2014

House of Burgess: Like déjà vu all over again

Proposed anti-gay laws recall sit-ins.

A historic photo seared into my brain at an early age came back to me this week. It was taken May 28, 1963, in Jackson, Miss., by photogra­pher Fred Blackwell of The Jackson Daily News.

“Those are the bravest people I’ve ever seen in my life,” Blackwell told The Associated Press on June 2, 2013. “What they went through ... pictures don’t tell the story.”

In the right-hand side of the frame are seated three attempted customers of the Woolworth’s whites-only lunch counter: John Salter, white Tougaloo College professor; Joan Trumpauer, white TC student; and Anne Moody, black TC student. Behind them stand dozens of pale onlookers, mostly students at nearby Central High School. On Monday, I located Moody’s 1968 autobiography “Coming of Age in Mississippi,” in which she painted the ugly scene.

“The mob started smearing us with ketchup, mustard, sugar, pies, and everything on the counter,” Moody wrote. “Soon Joan and I were joined by John, but the moment he sat down he was hit on the jaw with what appeared to be brass knuckles. Blood gushed from his face and someone threw salt into the open wound.”

This was one of a series of demonstrations against Jim Crow laws that allowed such discrimination. Scenes of passive protest matching the sit-ins of a half-century ago are virtually guaranteed if any of a building cadre of anti-gay “Religious Freedom” laws ever becomes codified.

On Feb. 11, House Bill 2453 passed the Kansas House of Representatives 72-49, and has since been referred to the Kansas Senate Committee on Judiciary.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law,” begins the bill, “no individual or religious entity shall be required by any governmental entity to do any of the following, if it would be contrary to the sincerely held religious beliefs of the individual or religious entity regarding sex or gender: provide any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods, or privileges; provide counseling, adoption, foster care and other social services; or provide employment or employment benefits, related to, or related to the celebration of, any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement; or solemnize [or treat as valid] any marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement.”

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