Roeland Park speakers tell council they oppose anti-discrimination ordinance

Although the Roeland Park City Council did not talk about its proposed anti-discrimination ordinance or have it on the agenda Monday night, a week after a community forum on the subject, it was still the primary topic for open comments at the council meeting.

A large crowd attended the first quarterly forum this week.
A large crowd attended the first quarterly forum last week which was followed by more comments to the city council Monday night.

All of the Roeland Park residents who took to the microphone Monday opposed the anti-discrimination proposal which would add sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes and not allow discrimination by businesses and landlords of a certain size in providing services and accommodations. Enforcement and effect were often targets of those opposing the ordinance. The tone Monday was in contrast to an earlier council session that drew multiple backers of the measure.

Susan Hunt called the draft ordinance “totally unenforceable” suggesting that Roeland Park would need its own human rights commission that would need to look at claims for all classes. Rumors are around that a petition for a city-wide vote could be in the making if the ordinance passes, she said. “Where would we get that money,” she asked. “Look at the consequences of your actions.”

“This is our city, let’s join together and solve this problem,” said JoAnna Rush. Noting the last two speakers at the community forum told personal stories about sexual orientation, she said the ordinance “will not solve those issues.” Her husband also opposed the ordinance, saying other options need to be considered.

Maureen Reardon said the ordinance denies the constitutional rights of freedom of religion. As at the community forum, the need for an ordinance was questioned because no recorded complaints are documented of discrimination in the two areas. Nicole Atwood contended that people who want special treatment for their own class are guilty of the discrimination they are protesting against.  “Natural law is the only perfect law,” she said.

Sandra Sanchez said she had supported Equality Kansas, the group advocating for the ordinance until the community forum. Sanchez said she objected to use of the term “illegal alien” by the state chair, Sandra Meade, responding to a speaker had brought up immigration. Sanchez said she had been discriminated against and said the term is offensive to the Latino community.

Meade publicly apologized to Sanchez, saying that she was responding “on the fly” to a comment. “You are absolutely right. The language I used was wrong.” Meade also pointed out that no claims of discrimination exist because no mechanism exists to make such a claim.