Young Democrats Picket Hobby Lobby In Effort To Swing Kansas

By John Celock

LAWRENCE, KS. – Kansas Young Democrats are saying that equality issues, including the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Hobby Lobby contraception case, will help swing the state Democratic this year.

During a rally in front of a Hobby Lobby here Monday, Young Democrats said that equality issues are driving young adults in the Sunflower State, particularly for women and the LGBT community. The group organized 100 participants to rally in front of the crafts store to protest the Supreme Court’s decision last week that the chain – and other privately held companies – did not have to provide certain forms of contraception under the Affordable Care Act based on religious objections. Hobby Lobby has argued that the forms of birth control they object to can be used for abortions.

“We think equality will resonate with young people, economic issues are not resonating with them,” Sean Elliott, national committee for the Kansas Young Democrats told The Celock Report. “Young people care about equality for their family members and their wives and daughters. Young people don’t see the $400 million that (Kansas Gov.) Sam Brownback (R) is mission in tax revenue and don’t see how it plays in their lives.”

Brownback is facing a competitive reelection campaign this year against presumptive Democratic nominee Paul Davis.

Elliott said that the Supreme Court’s decision has galvanized Young Democrats and others across Kansas who see it as another step in a Republican overreach that they see the GOP leading the state on. He compared the ruling with a religious freedom bill that the Republican-controlled state Legislature considered earlier this year that would have allowed businesses to object to providing services – including gay weddings – based on religious convictions. The bill could have also allowed businesses to fire LGBT employees based on religious objections.

Legislative Republicans dropped the bill following national attention and said changes would be made before the legislation returns in a future year. Speculation has grown in the last week that the Hobby Lobby ruling would lead to supporters trying to bring back the original language next year.

Elliott noted that Young Democrats feel that women’s equality and LGBT is something that is needed to continue in Kansas and noted that birth control access is one piece of the puzzle for women’s issues. He said that the birth control issue is actually an economic one.

“Birth control is something that women and young people care about,” he said. “Not because of the crazy things Republicans say about birth control. There are high costs for women to pay for birth control.”

Conservative activists have argued that young people have sought government-mandated birth control to lead sexually promiscuous lifestyles. During a 2012 debate on the subject, conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh called then Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” based on wanting to testify before Congress in favor of a birth control mandate. Fluke is now seeking a California state Senate seat in the Santa Monica and west Los Angeles area.

The group received honks and messages of supports from drivers on 23rd Street, a main thoroughfare leading towards Kansas Rt. 10 in this liberal leaning community that is home to the University of Kansas. The rally took place only a block from the southern edge of the KU campus.

During the rally foot traffic remained steady in and out of the Hobby Lobby, with many customers not looking towards the sidewalk rally as they entered the crafting mecca from the parking lot.

The rally comes as Davis, the state House minority leader who hails from Lawrence, continues to hold a lead over Brownback in polls, including one that shows Davis narrowly leading in largely rural and heavily Republican western Kansas. Elliott noted that while he sees equality issues weighing more than economic issues with young adults in the state, a vote for Davis based on equality will help the state economy.

“If we can get them to polls it will prevent another $400 million loss from Sam Brownback,” Elliott said.