A Kansas LGBT rights group is challenging the candidacy of antigay state representative Jan Pauls, saying she is claiming to live in a church to maintain residency in her district after boundaries were changed.
Hutchinson resident Pauls, a conservative Democrat who became notorious earlier this year with her testimony in favor of a bill that would have allowed anti-LGBT discrimination on religious grounds, has long represented the 102th district in the state House of Representatives. But a judicially ordered redistricting this month placed her home in the largely Republican 104th district, so Pauls said she is moving to the 102nd, as she and her husband own a former church there that they are remodeling to be their home, the Lawrence Journal-World reports.
Thomas Witt, executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, has filed a complaint with the state saying Pauls should be moved from the ballot, as there is no evidence she actually plans to live in the church. City and county governments both classify it as a commercial structure, no permits have been taken out to change it to a residence, and neighbors have seen no sign of anyone living there, he said.
“Mrs. Pauls may have committed one or more criminal acts by registering to vote and filing to run for office from an address at which she has never resided, and at which she may not legally dwell,” Witt said.
Pauls told the Journal-World she indeed plans to live in the structure and that she is being targeted for her political views. She championed the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, and this year she backed the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act, which would allow residents to opt out of antidiscrimination ordinances on religious grounds.
The bill, which came in response to Lawrence’s adoption of an ordinance prohibiting antigay discrimination, passed in the House of Representatives passed it but did not come to a vote in the Senate. In testimony on the bill (see video below), Pauls said ordinances like Lawrence’s force people to “support a lifestyle that they don't support due to their religion.”
Pauls faces opposition in the August 7 Democratic primary from Erich Bishop, the gay son of a former white supremacist. If she wins the primary, she will face Dakota Bass, a young Democrat turned Republican, who is the only candidate registered in the Republican primary. Both Bishop and Bass have served on the Hutchinson-area board of the Kansas Equality Coalition.