Mission Hills council weighs options for opposing LGBTQ+ discrimination

Mission Hills city hall.

Mission Hills continued to wrestle with how to best apply non-discrimination language providing legal protections to LGBTQ+ individuals during this week’s council meeting. While governing body members generally agreed they support the spirit of having a non-discrimination ordinance, several questioned the necessity of an NDO in Mission Hills, as the city does not have commercial employers or multi-family rentals.

“We may end up without much of an ordinance because we have very little we manage,” said councilmember Bill Bruning.

Mayor David Dickey pointed out that several years ago Mission Hills initially decided against adopting language prohibiting smoking in places of business because the city lacked entities the ban could be properly applied to.

The governing body generally agreed they would like to consider language that would apply an NDO to City employees and contractors. Country clubs and churches would be exempt. Applying the language to home-based employers with four or more employees will also be considered, though city staff noted this would be difficult to navigate as Mission Hills does not currently regulate home-based businesses.

Councilmember Beverly Brooks questioned whether applying the NDO to city contractors would be a “litigious nightmare” and voiced concerns with the city becoming involved with its contractors’ hiring and firing practices.

“That’s not where we belong,” Brooks said.

Bruning agreed that adopting an NDO would create some liability for the city.

“We are trying to do the right thing,” Bruning said. “In the process we will open cans of regulatory worms and we will just have to deal with it.”

Mission Hills will also consider drafting non-discrimination language into a proclamation rather than an ordinance. Unlike an ordinance a proclamation does not carry regulatory authority, but instead acts as a symbolic statement.
Mission Hills City Administrator Courtney Christensen pointed out that some Johnson County cities had decided to demonstrate NDO support through a proclamation instead of an ordinance to limit their communities’ exposure to potentially costly investigations.

Mission, Prairie Village, Merriam, and Roeland Park have passed NDOs granting legal protections for LGBTQ+ residents, rentals, and commercial employees. While Prairie Village’s NDO applies to employers with one or more employee, other neighboring cities’ NDO applies to businesses with four or more employees.

The NDOs are complaint-driven, meaning cities will respond and investigate complaints rather than actively police the policy.

Councilmember Andy Weed said he would be supportive of a resolution instead of an ordinance noting he thought it was important Mission Hills was “on the record” for being supportive of non-discrimination language.

Brooks also said she would support using the symbolic statement instead of an ordinance.

“Maybe a resolution is the way to go,” she said.