Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Phill Kline, Kansas' "Reverend A.G." 
by Lenka Reznicek [permalink] 
Just picked up on this LA Times story via feministing, profiling Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline. Reading some of Kline's words, I'd be hard-pressed to call him conservative: he's nothing less than a roll-back-the-clock reactionary. The first quote here is stunning; Kline basically gloats over Kansas' turnabout from being once considered a progressive state:
Kansas Attorney General Phill Kline"Study Kansas history," he said the other day, words tumbling out in an eager rush. "We were at the forefront of the abolitionist movement, the women's suffrage movement, prohibition. Then we got conservatism and recognized the importance of faith." Kline beamed. "In many ways," he said, "Kansas leads the nation on social issues. And always will."

Endorsing a key element of Kline's vision, Kansas voters last week overwhelmingly approved a far-reaching ban on gay marriage. Kline had promoted the amendment as a way to rein in "activist judges" who would "deny you the right to define family."

That troubled state Rep. Jeff Jack, a fellow Republican, who said Kline seemed to go out of his way to bash the courts. "It seems to me," Jack said, "he's gotten into some areas that you just wouldn't expect the attorney general to get into."

Clearly, Kline, 45, is no ordinary attorney general.

He travels the state preaching from church pulpits, with a firebrand charisma that has earned him a reputation as the state's best orator. He declares that some of the laws he's sworn to enforce are repugnant to him — especially a woman's right to abortion. He says he will uphold that right, but he interprets it narrowly.

Kansas law permits abortions late in pregnancy only if the woman would otherwise face "a substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function." To Kline, this means her physical health must be gravely threatened.

That interpretation is at odds with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that restrictions on abortion must include exceptions for the woman's mental as well as physical health. Nonetheless, Kline is weighing criminal charges against doctors who may have terminated advanced pregnancies out of concern for the mother's psychological state. Seeking evidence, he is demanding access to dozens of patient medical records; the abortion clinics are appealing.
Kline pushes against legal precedent in the schoolroom as well. A federal judge in Georgia recently ordered the removal of stickers in biology textbooks telling students that "evolution is a theory, not a fact."

Soon after, Kline told conservative members of the Kansas Board of Education that he would back them if they put similar stickers on textbooks — a move the board had not even considered when the attorney general brought it up.
Kline was also instrumental in reinforcing the state's discriminatory "Romeo and Juliet" laws that provides for harsh treatment of sexually active gay minors. Kline's stance on underage sex apparently includes a "pass" for straight teens, because they may get pregnant and "form families" - something the State wants to encourage:
In the fall of 2003, he issued an impassioned defense of a Kansas law that subjected sexually active teens to much steeper criminal penalties if they were gay.

In a legal brief, Kline argued that the state should punish a boy who had sex with an underage boy more harshly than a boy who had sex with an underage girl because the heterosexual couple might some day marry, and "marriage creates families" — a desirable outcome for the state.

Treating "same-sex or bestial contact" the same as Romeo and Juliet pairings "will begin a toppling of dominoes which is likely to end with the Kansas marriage law on the scrapheap," he wrote.
What a lovely sentiment. Key "red flag" sentence in the story: "[Kline] travels the state preaching from church pulpits..."

Any lawmaker who on one hand rails against "judicial activism" while simultaneously showing clear disdain for the separation of Church and State bears some pretty close watching. Remember: no reasonable law or social progress is ever safe from reversal, and no state is distant enough to ignore. And come midterms, folks, be extra careful who you vote for:
After all, Kline won the attorney general's race by a margin of less than 1%. And though he promised to find common ground with his opponents, he soon began making moves that alarmed them.