The Roeland Park anti-discrimination ordinance may finally get a vote in July. The council agreed Monday to separate the idea of forming a Human Rights Commission from the ordinance itself, which clears the way for final corrections to the ordinance text to be reviewed next month.
The ordinance, which adds sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes in Roeland Park, also now contains “military status” as a protected class in the latest version.
It is expected that the final changes will be reviewed in early July and a council vote could come at the July 21 council meeting. During the second marathon session in a week Monday, nearly 30 speakers make public comments and the council worked through a few final changes to the ordinance. The meeting had been moved to the Roeland Park Community Center to accommodate a crowd that, as expected, would not fit into the council chambers.
Councilors favored creating a Human Rights Commission, but agreed that it could be separate from the anti-discrimination ordinance. One possible version of the commission makes it a committee “created and established for the sole purpose of bringing people together of various backgrounds in order to continue to develop mutual respect and build relationships.” In that version it would not have any status in enforcing the anti-discrimination ordinance.
The council agreed to have a definition of discrimination added to the ordinance, but did not add domestic servants. “I think it is unfortunate that they are left out,” Councilor Sheri McNeil said, after advocating for the addition.
The ordinance also now excludes any “religious organization, private fraternal and benevolent association or society, non-profit private club, agency or department of Johnson County or school district.” It makes a further attempt to exempt fraternal organizations by saying it shall not apply when the profits from any services, above expenses, are solely for the benefit or mission of the organization.
During the long debate over the ordinance, some speakers had said it restricted “religious freedom” and expressed concerns about church or fraternal fundraisers being subject to the ordinance.