She's not old enough to vote, but that didn't stop a sophomore at Wichita's East High School from sending a strong message to lawmakers.
Paige Smading is speaking out against a recently passed house bill that would allow people and businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples based on religious beliefs.
"The purpose of my letter isn't to drastically change the course of events, but at least people will know this opinion is out there," Smading said.
Smading sent a letter to Senate President Susan Wagle and other State Senators, asking them to vote against House Bill 2453. She wishes other kids her age would do the same thing.
"A bill aimed to appease Christians blurs the lines between a government meant to protect all of its citizens and a government which only supports a majority group," Smading wrote.
Smading was moved into action after the Kansas house passed the bill earlier this week.
"I did send a shortened version to a couple other senators too," Smading said. "I got a form email back one but I haven't heard anything from anyone else."
Even though she hasn't gotten much of a response in return, she feels her message speaks for many of her peers.
"Overwhelmingly in my generation we are more accepting of who people are and we look past things such as sexual orientation, race or gender," Smading said. "These laws are going to affect our future so it's important for people in high school to actually get involved and make a difference as much as they can."
Right now the bill is in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Some lawmakers believe the committee will change some wording before the Senate votes on the bill.
House members who voted for the bill Tuesday said it was a preemptive strike by conservatives in the event a Federal court overturns the Kansas bill on same-sex marriage.
Late Thursday, Sen. Wagle issued a statement saying, ""After an initial review, I've grown concerned about the practical impact of the bill. A strong majority of my members support laws that define traditional marriage, protect religious institutions, and protect individuals from being forced to violate their personal moral values. However, my members also don't condone discrimination. If we cannot find ample common ground to ease legitimate concerns, I believe a majority of my caucus will not support the bill."
Here is the letter to Sen. Wagle below:
Dear Senator Wagle,
I'm sure as a representative of an area of a city as diverse as Wichita, you feel that you should protect the interests of those you represent. As you consider the bill that passed in the house today, I hope you can see the harmful effects it has on the liberties of residents of Kansas and the state of the rights of people in our state overall.
A bill that proposes taking away fundamental rights of a minority group in favor of ensuring "freedom of religion" for those too closed minded to accept anyone unlike them is reminiscent of a time where it was acceptable to think of one race as superior to another. Allowing business owners to deny service to someone based on their sexual orientation is as preposterous as denying service based on skin color. Each and every member of the LGBT community is as much a part of the communities of Kansas as you or I and should be treated as such. I am sure you would not vote to pass a bill that advocated discrimination against any minority on grounds of race, and this should be no different.
Citing religious freedom as an excuse for discrimination is simply silly. While our government ensures the right of religious freedom, a person's right to freedom runs out at the point at which they tread upon others' basic rights. If we are to allow religious freedom to be an excuse for persons who only want to hate to legally persecute a minority group in this instance, it would set the precedent that anything can be done as long as there is a Bible verse supporting it. We do not see business owners denying service to persons who have divorced and remarried, so we should not allow these persons to be selective in who they use their religion to hate. As a very devout, religious person myself, I am not in favor of taking away religious freedoms. However, allowing service to someone does not infringe upon religious freedom at all. At the point at which serving someone who may happen to be married to someone of the same sex is in no way, shape, or form takes away from religious practices, this bill should be discarded.
Our country was founded with intentions of separation of church and state. While this doctrine is rarely followed, it should be taken into consideration in today's circumstance. Just because how one person is offends one part of a religious group does not mean the government should intervene. If homosexuality was upsetting religions such as Islam or Judaism, we would not see action from the state legislature. A bill aimed to appease Christians blurs the lines between a government meant to protect all of its citizens and a government which only supports a majority group.
One of the major issues I see with this bill is that it bars discrimination lawsuits. It it not one of the great liberties of our nation that we can challenge something that is not right? Should those who are on the wrong end of this bill be subjected to unjustified discrimination and not be able to do anything about it? This is simply an attempt to deny justice to a group that deserves as much of a chance for justice as you or I.
I am fortunate enough to attend a high school where everyone is accepted and embraced for what makes them different. Everyone is seen for who they are, not their sexual orientation. Allowing this bill to pass would only perpetuate hate, not acceptance or freedom. This bill would send a message to malleable minds that it is okay to hate someone that is not like themselves. I hope you agree with me that this bill could take away any progress Kansas has made.
Sophomore, Wichita High School East