Roeland Park reverses earlier vote, passes anti-discrimination ordinance; mayor breaks tie

Becky Fast, who was missing from the July vote, voted in favor of the anti-discrimination ordinance Monday.
Becky Fast, who was missing from the July vote, voted in favor of the anti-discrimination ordinance Monday, creating a tie on the council.

Roeland Park City Councilor Becky Fast, missing from the July 21 city council meeting, voted in favor of the city’s proposed anti-discrimination ordinance Monday night, reversing the results of that July vote. The ordinance adds sexual orientation, gender identity and military status to protected classes in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Roeland Park Councilor Michael Rhoades argued against taking a second vote.
Roeland Park Councilor Michael Rhoades argued against taking a second vote.

Each of the other seven councilors stayed with their previous votes. With Fast voting “yes,” the council vote ended in a 4-4 tie. Mayor Joel Marquardt broke the tie by voting to pass it. That reversed the result of the 4-3 vote in July that defeated the ordinance. Fast joined councilors Teresa Kelly, Jennifer Gunby, and Megan England voting for the ordinance. Maintaining their “no” votes were councilors Marek Gliniecki, Mel Croston, Michael Rhoades and Sheri McNeil.

Unlike July 21, when most of the councilors amplified the reasons for their votes, the Monday votes were cast without comment. Fast, who was in an auto accident on her way to the July meeting, also did not comment when she voted.

The stage for the reversal vote was set when the council debated taking a second vote earlier in the evening during a committee meeting that preceded the council session. When the council was asked for a consensus on whether another vote should be taken, only McNeil and Rhoades said they did not want to return the ordinance to the council agenda for another vote.

Rhoades said it was “completely irrelevant” whether the absent member agrees or disagrees with the vote. The “problem is that some people want to know how a member would have voted,” he said. “We took a vote and it should stand,” McNeil said.

However, Marquardt joined other councilors urging a new vote so Fast could be counted. “I should have asked the council to consider holding off the vote,” Marquardt said of the July meeting when Fast was not present. “I do feel that all voices should be heard.”

“I have seen an overwhelming outcry of constituents wanting our eighth council member to have her voice heard,” said Teresa Kelly. “I feel in this particular instance it is not unique to our city to reconsider and issue.” Gliniecki, who voted against the ordinance on both occasions, also spoke in favor of taking a second vote.

A series of speakers, many of whom had made multiple presentations before, again addressed the council at the two meetings weighing in on the ordinance. One new speaker said he was a gay father who had moved back to Roeland Park and was “welcomed with open arms” when he took boyfriends to the St. Agnes auction. The ordinance “would go a long way in showing my kids that it is important to be treated equally,” he said. His testimony was in contrast to others who had referenced the Catholic church and St. Agnes in their opposition to the ordinance.

Only a slightly smaller crowd was present for the second vote and again the meeting was moved to the Roeland Park Community Center to accommodate the crowd.