Second-largest city in Kansas bars LGBT discrimination
OVERLAND PARK, Kan. (AP) — The second-largest city in Kansas has passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The city council in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park voted 10-1 Monday to protect residents and employees from being denied housing, employment or services from businesses. But Overland Park leaders warned that the city’s ordinance could become moot depending on the outcome of a federal lawsuit over whether federal civil rights law protects LGBT people from job discrimination, reported The Kansas City Star. A ruling is expected by next summer, in which the justices will determine whether it is legal to fire employees based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Despite the questions, backers of the proposal took the Overland Park action as a landmark development, reported KCUR. Overland Park has a population of around 190,000, falling second in population only to Wichita, which has around 390,000 residents.
“It’s fantastic,” said Brett Hoedl, chair of the Equality Kansas of Metro Kansas City. “We assumed it was going to go this way, but I get jittery every time we go into one of these meetings.”
He said it could create pressure for adoption of a statewide law. Nearly two dozen states outlaw discrimination against someone because they are LGBTQ. Missouri and Kansas aren’t among them.
Council Member Dave White voted for the ordinance, but said he wanted more teeth in the legislation. The ordinance allows fines of up to $1,000.
“We’re saying, ‘Yes, it’s illegal but we can only fine them,’” White said. “We can’t do anything more than that and none of the money goes to the person who suffered the discrimination.”
Councilman Jim Kite was the only one to vote against it. He explained he has concerns with the wording of the ordinance, but he believes the mediation process could be helpful for aggrieved citizens.
Other cities to pass non-discrimination ordinances include Kansas City, Kansas; as well as Lawrence, Manhattan, Merriam, Roeland Park and Prairie Village.