As NEJC cities move forward with ordinances on LGBTQ+ rights, Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook raises objections

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook has spoken out in opposition to the proposed NDOs in NEJC cities.

The governing bodies in Merriam, Mission and Prairie Village appear poised to pass non-discrimination ordinances in the coming weeks and months that would grant LGBTQ+ individuals legal protections not presently offered under federal and state law.

Merriam’s council advanced its draft NDO on Monday, and Mission is prepared to review NDO language at a committee meeting tonight. Prairie Village is scheduled to take a final adoption vote on its NDO next Monday.

Though the ordinances have been largely praised by LGBTQ+ advocates and given support by broad swaths of the cities in which they’ve been introduced, there have been prominent voices in opposition to the measures.

Shawnee Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook has addressed both the Prairie Village and Mission city councils on the issue. As the cities near final consideration of the ordinances, Pilcher-Cook continues to voice her objections. She penned the following comments outlining her opposition to the measures and submitted them to the Shawnee Mission Post:

The sexual orientation gender identity laws revolve around freedom in our society, so it is imperative the public understands what they entail.

We all have agreement that unfair discrimination causes harm to our society and our Kansas statute, KSA 44-1009, is broadly protective, not allowing discrimination due to race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry of any person. These criteria can be determined by objective measures.

In contrast, the human person cannot adequately be described by his or her sexual inclinations and it is degrading to reduce individuals to such traits. Sexual orientation and gender identity cannot be judged simply by looking at a person. Therefore, these laws can have serious detrimental and unintended consequences because of their subjective nature. What exactly does discrimination based on “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” mean? What conduct can or cannot be penalized?

Our common goal should be to provide an environment where every human being is protected by law and can genuinely flourish in their community. When laws are created that are ambiguous and can be subjectively applied, only the people in power get to decide when the law is broken by their own personal criteria. Significant harm can be inflicted upon innocent citizens for alleged “discrimination” based on opinions and unverifiable identities.

Laws must be applied in a manner that is neutral towards religion to protect everyone’s freedom. According to the Supreme Court’s Masterpiece Cake opinion, “The government, consistent with the Constitution’s guarantee of free exercise, cannot impose regulations that are hostile to the religious beliefs of affected citizens and cannot act in a manner that passes judgment upon or presupposes the illegitimacy of religious beliefs and practices.” This ruling is a clear reason why the proposed ordinances lay groundwork for lawsuit threats.

It doesn’t take much investigation to show there has been an increase in lawsuits in communities that have passed these laws, with the Masterpiece Cake case just being one of them. Many of these cases are making their way to the U.S. Supreme Court. And, as we have already witnessed and which can easily be discerned, these ordinances and subsequent lawsuits cause significant division within communities.

All people deserve to be recognized as valued members of their community, worthy of respect and fair treatment, but that is not what these proposed “NDOs” are about. These ordinances will not provide uniform legal protection but instead will cause unjust discrimination where none existed before.

Pilcher-Cook’s district covers parts of Bonner Springs, Merriam, Overland Park and Shawnee; as well as all of Lake Quivira. She served in the House from 2001 to 2006 and was elected to the Senate in 2008.

A number of other officials have publicly addressed the NDOs before any of the governing bodies considering them. Sen Barbara Bollier told the Prairie Village City Council in October that she hoped the city would move forward with adopting its NDO because she did not see a path by which state government would be able to pass a bill providing such protections to LGBTQ+ persons. Rep. Jerry Stogdill and JCCC Board of Trustees member Angeliina Lawson spoke in favor of the PV ordinance as well. In Merriam, Rep. Jarrod Ousely and SMSD Board of Education member Heather Ousley both spoke in support of the NDO proposed there.