Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. We’re kicking off this year’s Capitol Update columns a week ahead of the start of the legislative session. Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Jarrod Ousley and Sen. Barbara Bollier are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Clayton’s filing:
This past week in the legislature came with an important deadline: the last day to introduce individually sponsored bills. During this time, unusual pieces of legislation are bound to pop up. Many of you may be familiar with legislation that was recently introduced which refers to some marriages as “parody marriages”, and to LGBTQ citizens as “mythical.” There is no question that this legislation is terrible, both because of the hateful and ignorant assertions that it makes, as well as being so poorly written that it is doubtful that it could be enforced, let alone interpreted. The source of these bills is a notorious anti-LGBTQ activist who is known for frivolous lawsuits, and who has written this, and other similar model legislation meant to be introduced in state legislatures across the country.
The introduction of these bills put Kansas in the national spotlight, reflecting a sad trend over the years where we are again seen as the butt of jokes, a national laughingstock.
In the meantime, many of our local governments have been working together to show that their cities in Johnson County are open for business. It may surprise some to hear Non-Discrimination Ordinances spoken of in terms of being pro-business. When we usually think of ending discrimination, we think first in terms of human decency, and doing what is right, and well we should. But it is worth noting here that it pays to be decent and kind to our fellow citizens. Some of our local Chambers of Commerce, most notably our own Northeast Johnson County Chamber, and the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce have embraced nondiscrimination policies (you can see their legislative platforms here and here).
These members of the business community understand that inclusivity is a valuable recruitment tool, and at a time when Kansas is experiencing brain drain and overall declining population, it is our responsibility to treat all of our citizens with dignity and respect, because people are drawn to live and do business in communities that do what is right and just.
Many people in Kansas and beyond are calling for the condemnation of this hateful legislation, and I join with them in that condemnation. But, in the world of politics, words are wind, only deeds matter. House and Senate Leadership have as of yet to condemn these pieces of legislation, but I would strongly prefer that they bring the statewide Non-Discrimination Bills up for Hearings and full votes on the House and Senate Floors. By allowing legislators to vote against discrimination and for a strong climate of inclusivity that allows for our business community to flourish, they can show the world that Kansas is open for business. I hope that these leaders will back our business community through this strong and decisive action.