Republican Rep. Ron Highland of Kansas withdrew his support for a controversial anti-LGBTI bill after his daughter publicly shamed him for sponsoring it.
The piece of legislation in question, HB 2320, would define marriage in Kansas as between one man and one woman. Such a bill would undermine the 2015 Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. In this bill, same-sex marriages would be deemed ‘parody marriages’ and the state would be allowed to deny such marriage licenses.
Ron Highland’s daughter
Christel Highland took to Facebook to share an open letter to her father. On Facebook, Highland describes herself as ‘a proud member of Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ community, a mother, a partner to the love of my life, an artist active in my creative community, and a hard-working businessperson’. She added that she was ‘personally offended by the egregious nature of Kansas Representatives’ proposed legislation, most notably, my father’s.’
The open letter
‘Your actions strike against what this country was meant to become,’ Highland wrote in her letter, dated 20 February.
She quoted Charles Darwin to remind her father that he used to be a man of science, not faith.
‘Your most sacred job as an elected official is to serve and protect people,’ she continued. ‘Your God did not elect you, living, breathing humans beings did. Further isolating the marginalized among the population you serve is far from your duty.’
‘Hate has no place in public policy. I respectfully request an apology on behalf on my family and beloved friends that this cruel attempt at legislation impacts — viable or not — and I beg that you show yourself to be the honorable man I’ve always known you to be. Ultimately, what is right can never be something that hurts another. You taught me that.’
‘I love you, I always will, in spite of your flaws,’ she stated. Adding, ‘I cannot, however, condone your cruel actions. Shame on you.’
After this letter went public, Ron Highland issued a statement saying he was ‘wrong’ for sponsoring the bill.
‘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,’ Highland wrote in his statement. ‘I trusted the author of the bill who is my office mate and signed on to several of his bills. Knowing that some of them were really important, I trusted that they all were, and that was not the case.’
‘I must admit it was a mistake, and apologize.’
In a statement to the Washington Post, Highland said she wrote this letter ‘because I had friends in Kansas whom I knew were reeling from yet another attempt to legislate hate.’
‘I wrote that letter from a place of exhaustion as a result of our divisive political climate,’ she said. ‘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.’
After her father publicly apologized and removed his support for the bill, she said she was proud of him ‘for setting an excellent example.’
‘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,’ she told the Washington Post.
‘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.’