Over the course of a marathon four-hour workshop Tuesday, the Roeland Park city council dove deep into the details of its proposed anti-discrimination ordinance — and while proponents of the law said they were pleased with the progress, they’ll have to wait yet again for a final vote on the law.
Equality Kansas’s Michael Poppa reacts to Tuesday’s workshop
Hung up over the question of whether to form a Human Rights Commission that would play a part in investigating complaints of discrimination in the city and uncomfortable with the idea of bringing the code up for a final vote before the councilor had adequate time to digest the myriad tweaks made to the ordinance’s language Tuesday, the council agreed to postpone yet again a vote on the law.
The vote had been scheduled for Monday’s city council meeting. Instead, the council will return to vetting the language of the ordinance after it concludes its current set agenda in hopes of scheduling a vote at a later date. Monday’s meeting will still be held at the Roeland Park Community Center instead of at City Hall.
It was unclear at the end of Tuesday’s proceedings when a final vote on the issue may take place, but mayor Joel Marquardt suggested he wanted to see the vote in July if not sooner at a special meeting. Other members of the governing body seemed less eager to get a new final voting date on the books.
“I want a good ordinance,” said councilor Teresa Kelly. “If that takes more time, that takes more time.”
During the deliberations Tuesday, which were closed to public comment, the council discussed the nuances of dozens of words and phrases in the nine-page bill, debating things like whether a particular line should include the words “and,” “or,” or “and/or.” Among the more substantive additions to the document was language that would make veterans a protected class.
Over the course of a discussion about which restroom facilities transgendered individuals should be using, councilor Mel Croston asked Sandra Meade, chair of the Kansas Equality Coalition and a transgendered rights advocated, why transgendered individuals “don’t just have the surgery and not have to worry about this?”
Meade responded that surgery was not a medically safe option for some individuals with gender dysphoria, and that even if it is an option, it is too expensive for many people to afford. As for the restroom question, Meade said transgendered individuals actively pursuing the option of living life fully as a man or a woman would be using the restroom of their preferred gender role. Such a step is part of transgendered individuals’ “real life test.” She noted that transgendered individuals valued their privacy in restrooms as much as anyone else.
“I don’t know of any restroom where you stop people to say, show me your genitals,” she said.
At the end of Tuesday’s proceedings, some councilors raised concerns about the amount of time the city had been spending debating the ordinance. Newly seated councilor Michael Rhoades wondered whether the city was behind on its budgeting process for 2015.
“Don’t we need to be concentrating on that?” he asked.
Should the council vote to approve the ordinance, it would make Roeland Park just the second city in the state to have an anti-discrimination ordinance on the books. After being proposed by councilors Jennifer Gunby and Megan England in early March, the ordinance was initially slated for an April 21 vote.