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. Rep. Brett Parker, Rep. Brandon Woodard and Sen. Pat Pettey are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Rep. Woodard’s filing:
As we gear up for the legislature’s veto session, the fate of modernizing the Kansas Act Against Discrimination to include protections for LGBTQ Kansans remains a mystery. As negotiations for a committee hearing or legislative action continue with House leadership, the business community and local municipalities have started weighing in and adding pressure. Kansas is one of the few states where it is legal to deny housing, refuse business, and fire Kansans for being LGBTQ. Updating this law is long overdue, essential for protecting our LGBTQ neighbors, and good for business.
Whether intended or not, the consequences of recent laws have resulted in states banning tax-funded travel to Kansas, Kansas corporations losing major contracts across the country, and a national profile that highlights a false narrative about Kansas. In 2016, the legislature passed SB 175, a so-called “campus religious freedom” bill that inserted a campus fee funding exemption for student membership organizations that choose to employ religious beliefs to discriminate, often targeting the LGBTQ community. Typically, a student organization must be open to all students to qualify for campus funding, which is paid for by all students. This, as well as the 2017 adoption discrimination bill that allowed for tax payer funded discrimination, were moves that landed Kansas in the media for all the wrong reasons. Discrimination of any kind is not Kansan and certainly not a Kansas value, which is why I’m working with colleagues, Democratic and Republican, to update our laws.
Adding “sexual orientation” and “gender identity or expression” to the existing Kansas Act Against Discrimination (race, color, religion, sex, disability, national origin, or ancestry) as protected classes will, of course, improve the lives of our LGBTQ neighbors, but is also good for the future of the Kansas economy. In fact, many of the larger employers across the state are beginning to offer these protections to their employees. We should streamline our discrimination statutes to ensure protections for these businesses and all our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Kansans. To put it in perspective, Kansas is one of 15 states that has no employment protections for the LGBTQ community, meaning you can get married on Sunday and fired on Monday because of who you love.
When we do what is right, major employers and service providers will begin competing for contracts and winning them, state-funded travel to Kansas by other state’s employees will be restored, and the members of the LGBTQ community will live free of fear that they’ll be denied housing, refused business, or have their employment terminated because of who they love.
As the end of the legislative session approaches, I will be reminding the leadership in the House and Senate that the time to act on this issue is now. In fact, it’s long overdue. Discrimination of any kind is antithetical to who we are as Kansans. For our neighbors, for our businesses, for Kansas. Let’s act.
If you feel strongly about this issue, I urge you to contact Rep. John Barker, chairman of Federal & State Affairs to encourage a hearing for HB 2130 at email@example.com or (785) 296-7674.