Lenexa city leaders on Tuesday approved a measure voicing their support for statewide and federal adoption of a legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.
Rather than moving forward with a city-level non-discrimination ordinance, as other cities in northeast Johnson County have done, the Lenexa council voted 7-0 to adopt a resolution to amend Lenexa’s state and federal legislative policies to include language from those non-discrimination ordinances. The updated platform is intended to show the city’s support for creating state and federal legal protections for sexual orientation and gender identity.
In the same motion, the council also amended the city’s legislative platform to support the resolution that local representatives Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz introduced in Topeka. Councilmember Steve Lemons was absent.
Mayor Michael Boehm, who introduced the resolution to the council Tuesday, said the city can consider adopting its own non-discrimination ordinance sometime in the future, “but not tonight.”
Councilmember Joe Karlin said a resolution gives the city the platform to voice its position while allowing the option down the road to adopt a non-discrimination ordinance of its own if Kansas legislators fail to pass a statewide law.
Lenexa’s approach is similar to the Overland Park council’s decision to pass a statement showing support for LGBTQ+ legal protections at the state level a few weeks ago. Overland Park’s governing body indicated it might consider city-level action if Kansas legislators fail to pass the bill.
Boehm said the resolution is consistent with the city’s hiring policies.
Council raises concerns with city-level NDO enforcement
Boehm said he, city leaders and staff had concerns with Lenexa adopting its own non-discrimination ordinance with protections for the classes of sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Our staff had some concerns, as did I, about authority — on whether that was appropriate, that we had the legal authority in the constitution to put in an ordinance of that nature,” Boehm said, airing questions about which cities’ non-discrimination ordinances Lenexa might use as a model in drafting their own non-discrimination ordinance.
Boehm questioned enforcement and punishment issues as well, asking what criteria exists in a non-discrimination ordinance for the municipal judge to consider — other than the ordinance itself — if an allegation of discrimination were made.
Rather than passing an ordinance that the city is unsure “how we’re going to enforce, we don’t have good criteria to enforce, and we don’t have the manpower or the knowledge to enforce,” city leaders and staff are discussing options with the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce, which recommended the city push for statewide and federal adoption of non-discrimination, the mayor added.
“Our one concern was not having potentially 610 different ordinances in the state of Kansas,” Boehm said, adding that, lacking uniformity, this poses a challenge for franchises and businesses with multiple locations across the state to comply.
The councilmembers said they support the approach of a resolution to ask the state to address the issue, as opposed to the city adopting a non-discrimination ordinance at this time.
“I hold a very deep belief in it’s never OK to discriminate against anybody,” said councilmember Andy Huckaba. “That said, I’m not willing to go into an ordinance where it’s merely symbolic. I would rather this be taken up at a state and federal level. I think we should…give voice from Lenexa that this is an important thing.
“The concept of having a patchwork of local laws that cover this in inconsistent ways, I think, is a nightmare, and I don’t think that’s going to serve anybody well. I think it needs to be done in a more comprehensive manner, and I think that’s what our resolution before us indicates.”
The governing body in Mission Hills this week continued discussion of creating a city-level non-discrimination ordinance there.
Below is a copy of Lenexa’s statement on its legislative federal platform related to LGBTQ protections and non-discrimination:
We support anti-discrimination legislation that includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes.
Recently, several of our neighboring communities have passed laws establishing sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes within their jurisdictions. Moreover, the Governor of Kansas has extended these protections to state employees. In response, two members of Lenexa’s state legislative delegation have introduced measures that would extend these anti-discrimination protections to all Kansans. We believe discrimination, in all its forms, is unjust and damaging to a community’s growth. A diverse population of various cultures, perspectives, and experiences creates a dynamic, welcoming, and prosperous community. However, a patchwork of local ordinances is not the most effective solution to implementing anti-discrimination laws. We urge Congress to pass legislation adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes covered by federal anti-discrimination laws.