By Tara Law
February 24, 2019

A Kansas lawmaker has apologized for co-sponsoring a harsh anti-LGBTQ bill after his daughter chastised him in a public letter.

Republican state Rep. Ron Highland was one of the seven co-sponsors for the bill, dubbed the “marriage and constitution restoration act,” which was introduced on Feb. 13. The legislation aims to slash measures that protect the LGBTQ community including policies that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. The bill condemns what it refers to as “parody marriages” – marriages that are not between a man and a woman – saying “[a]ll forms of parody marriage equally erode community standards of decency.”

The bill seeks to establish that “sexual orientation is faith-based” and part of an ideology it calls “secular humanism.” Therefore, it concludes, under the separation of church and state, the government cannot “create, enforce or respect any LGBTQ or any other secular humanist policy.”

Christel Highland, the state representative’s daughter who identifies herself as “a proud member of Kansas City’s LGBTQ+ community,” responded to the bill in a letter to her father, which she posted on Facebook.

In the letter, she asked him why he would endorse a policy that “elevates hate and hurts my family or friends? Why would a person of integrity want to legislate and force their beliefs on another?”

She added that he was neglecting his responsibility as an elected official to protect people, and reminded him that he had taught her to “think before you speak.”

“I would respectfully ask that you think deeply prior to sponsoring any legislation,” Christel Highland wrote. “Legislation which reeks of utter disrespect toward anyone, actively striving to make the lives of others more difficult is beneath you. I love you, I always will, in spite of your flaws. I cannot, however, condone your cruel actions. Shame on you.”

She insisted that he should apologize for signing the bill and reflect upon his actions.

“I respectfully request an apology on behalf of 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,” she wrote. “Ultimately, what is right can never be something that hurts another. You taught me that.”

Highland appeared to have a change of heart after the letter went public. Last week, he wrote a letter to a local newspaper, the Wamego Times, to say that he was working to have his signature removed from the legislation, according to Kansas paper The Mercury.

“The bill that I should not have signed on to co-sponsor contained some hateful language which I do not condone, and it is against our Lord’s command to love our neighbors,” he told the paper in a statement. “I have asked for my name to be removed from the bill. The process for doing so is in motion.”

Highland said that he had signed the bill because it had been recommended to him by a colleague he trusted.

“I must admit it was a mistake, and apologize,” Highland wrote.

After her father announced that he is working to remove his signature from the bill, Highland shared the news story.

“Now I have to write another letter,” she wrote, signing off with a heart.

Write to Tara Law at tara.law@time.com.

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