Prairie Village council unanimously approves legal protections for LGBTQ+ residents, employees

Jay Senter - December 18, 2018 11:17 am
Members of the community applauded after Prairie Village approved its new non-discrimination ordinance.

Prairie Village’s city council needed little time on Monday to give final approval to the non-discrimination ordinance it has been considering since October.

On a unanimous 12-0 vote Monday that was met with sustained applause from a full gallery, the council approved the measure that will provide legal protections to LGBTQ+ residents and employees that are not currently provided under state or federal law.

Before the vote, Tucker Poling, who introduced the measure back in October with fellow councilmember Chad Andrew Herring, thanked the members of the community who had come forward in recent months to express their support for the measure, many of whom had shared personal stories.

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“Much of this is about seeing each other. And seeing our neighbors,” Poling said. “You have helped us see you better. And by sharing some of your experiences, you’ve helped us see our whole community better.”

David Leonard was among the area residents who came to Monday’s meeting to show support for the measure — and as a show of opposition to protestors from the Westboro Baptist Church, who lined up along Mission Road with signs denouncing homosexuality prior to the meeting.

“I just wanted to be a counterbalance to them,” said Leonard, who lives in north Leawood. “I’m pleased. I think the ordinance is great. I’m not sure that it’s going to have a huge impact in Prairie Village, but like Tucker said, anything that brings attention to the subject and makes people feel more included is a good thing.”

The city sent out postcards to business owners and landlords in recent weeks advising them of the prospective ordinance ahead of Monday’s meeting. One business owner spoke during the open forum portion of the meeting to express concerns with what he viewed as the NDO’s potential impact on his 1st Amendment rights. Trey Jadlow, a dentist whose Trey Dental Arts practice has offices at 83d and Mission, said that by his reading, the “ordinance is essentially outlawing the practice of biblical Christianity.”

“I’m a Christian, and I own a business in the city,” Jadlow said. “I was wondering if I were to hire someone who were engaged in a homosexual lifestyle, and I told them that they could not enter the kingdom of heaven unless they repented of their lifestyle, would I be liable to this law?”

City attorney David Waters responded to Jadlow’s question a few minutes after he asked it, saying that the ordinance does not specifically impact speech, but rather focuses on hiring and firing practices. Waters did suggest a hypothetical situation where an employer’s constant remarks about an employee’s sexual identity or gender orientation could rise to the level that it would make the employer subject to the law.

“There could be the question of whether I say something like that to my employee, does that alone impact them? Maybe not,” Waters said. “If I say it every single day to this employee such that that person’s employment becomes unsustainable, I think you could make the argument that maybe that would fall within [the ordinance].”

Prior to the vote, Herring noted that seven Prairie Village faith communities had written letters showing their support for the ordinance.

“Too often these considerations are juxtaposing religion against neighbors,” Herring, who is a Presbyterian pastor, said. “As someone who works in the field…I’m deeply passionate for the ability of people to have their own religious beliefs and to bring them bear both in enterprise and in public. But I do believe that this ordinance is crucial to be a welcoming place for everyone to come here to live, work, play and worship.”

Councilmember Ted Odell noted his disagreement with the decision to increase the maximum penalty for a violation of the ordinance from $500 to $1,000, but said he would respect the wishes of the majority of the council in making that change and voted to approve the NDO.

A number of current and incoming state lawmakers were in the audience for the vote: Reps. Jerry Stogsdill, Stephanie Clayton, Rui Xu, Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodard. Ruiz and Woodard, who were elected in November, will be the first openly LGBTQ+ members of the state legislature when they are seated in January.

The city of Mission is set to vote on its proposed non-discrimination ordinance at its Wednesday council meeting. Merriam will vote on its non-discrimination ordinance in the coming months.

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