Mission council passes non-discrimination ordinance on 7-1 vote

Shawnee Mission Board of Education vice president Heather Ousley (from left), and Prairie Village city councilmembers Jori Nelson and Chad Andrew Herring were in the audience as the Mission council approved the ordinance with legal protections for LGBTQ+ residents and employees.

Two days after Prairie Village passed a similar measure, the Mission council on Wednesday approved a non-discrimination ordinance with legal protections for LGBTQ+ residents and employees.

The ordinance, which goes into effect Jan. 1, extends legal protections in the city to sexual orientation and gender identity, and also covers currently protected classes at the state and federal levels (such as race, ethnicity, military status, etc.).

The 7-1 vote drew a round of applause from the packed council chambers.

Because the ordinance covers currently protected classes in addition to sexual orientation and gender identity, the city of Mission can investigate all cases of nondiscrimination if a complainant so chooses, said city administrator Laura Smith. However, the city can also forward cases on to other sources such as the Kansas Human Rights Commission, if those cases involve instances of discrimination against classes protected at the state level.

The council’s vote also approved a penalty fee increase from $500 to $1,000, per the councilmembers’ discussion at committee level last week. Prairie Village also set its maximum penalty for a violation at $1,000.

Councilmember Pat Quinn cast the single dissenting vote, citing his belief that this issue should be handled at the state and federal levels.

“I feel it’s a very important issue, but I don’t think it’s a motion I can support tonight,” Quinn said. “I think this should be handled at the state level, not city to city. I think that’s a bad way to approach this.”

Some councilmembers echoed Quinn’s wishes but ultimately felt compelled to take action at the local level.

“In some ways, I agree with Councilmember Quinn,” said councilmember Nick Schlossmacher. “I think that this really is a state level issue, but I also know that it’s a way that we can take a stand and help support nondiscrimination in this community.”

Schlossmacher added that he wants to ensure that passing the ordinance will not bring in “any sort of discrimination action into the city process.”

Councilmember Hillary Parker Thomas said that passing the ordinance confirms that Mission is a safe and inclusive community. Her colleague, Sollie Flora — who introduced the ordinance in October — said concerns from Mission residents about the state’s Adoption Protection Act initially spurred her to action.

“But more importantly, as Councilwoman Thomas said, I would like to thank all of the members of our community who have come and spoke in favor of this ordinance,” Flora said. “And I appreciate everyone who spoke against this ordinance as well, because it’s important to have a public process and have everyone’s voices be heard.”

Merriam is considering a nondiscrimination ordinance as well.