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Kansas Lawmaker Nixes Support for Anti-LGBTQ Bill, Thanks to Daughter

Ron Highland
Ron Highland

Christel Highland, daughter of Rep. Ron Highland, called him out for supporting a bill calling same-sex marriages "parody marriages."

A Kansas lawmaker has withdrawn his support for a bill calling same-sex marriages "parody marriages" after his daughter called him out on it.

"The bill that I should not have signed on to cosponsor contained some hateful language which I do not condone, and it is against our Lord's command to love our neighbors. I have asked for my name to be removed from the bill. The process for doing so is in motion," Republican Rep. Ron Highland said in a statement to The Wamego Times, his local newspaper. The article is apparently not online, but several other Kansas media outlets quoted it.

The legislation, House Bill 2320, aims to prevent the state from recognizing same-sex marriages. It claims they violate the separation of church and state, as they are part of the "secular humanist" religion.

"The state shall no longer be in the parody marriage funding and endorsement business and shall disentangle itself from the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) secular humanist church pursuant to this section and the establishment clause of the 1st amendment of the constitution of the United States," it reads in part. It defines "parody marriage" as "any form of alleged marriage that does not involve a man and a woman." Its chief sponsor, Republican Rep. Randy Garber, has said LGBTQ people are "trying to force their beliefs on society."

Rep. Highland's daughter Christel Highland, who describes herself as "a proud member of Kansas City's LGBTQ+ community," wrote an open letter to her father Wednesday on Facebook. She said the bill "reeks of disrespect" and is an "attempt at policy that elevates hate and hurts my family or friends."

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"I wrote that letter from a place of exhaustion as a result of our divisive political climate," Christel Highland said in a statement to The Washington Post Saturday. "The overwhelmingly positive response to my message shows that I am not alone in my longing for kindness, respect, and acceptance to return to our policy-making process."

Of Rep. Highland's apology, she said, "It took strength to do what my Father did, and I'm proud of him for setting an excellent example to his colleagues and constituents by removing his co-sponsorship from HB 2320. I think this situation is an example of what is possible if we work together toward good with love in our hearts. I can only hope that this is a step in a positive direction where we work to make the pursuit of happiness easier for one another irrespective of birthplace, race, beliefs, or orientation."

The Post could not reach her father for comment.

HB 2320 and a companion bill are reportedly based on drafts created by Chris Sevier, an anti-LGBTQ activist who filed lawsuits in several states seeking to marry his laptop computer. The bills have no chance of becoming law in Kansas, which last year elected an LGBTQ-supportive Democratic governor, Laura Kelly, who would undoubtedly veto them - plus they would run up against the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 marriage equality ruling. But conservative legislators are seeking to make marriage equality an issue as Kansas considers a bill to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

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