Lenexa will take ‘wait and see’ approach on non-discrimination ordinance as cases on LGBTQ rights head for Supreme Court

Leah Wankum - May 8, 2019 11:37 am

Before the city of Lenexa takes any action on a potential non-discrimination ordinance to create legal protections for LGBTQ residents and employees, the city council is waiting to see what the U.S. Supreme Court decides on three civil rights cases.

While other cities in northeast Johnson County have adopted nondiscrimination ordinances to provide protections for LGBTQ individuals, the Lenexa council in March decided to wait and see if Kansas legislators would adopt a state bill to provide those protections.

Instead, the council passed a resolution supporting diversity, inclusion and equality in the city and amending the city’s state and federal legislative platforms to support legislation that promotes equality.

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The Supreme Court announced in April that it will hear arguments on three cases that would determine if Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or transgender or transitioning status. The council decided this week that it will now wait for the Supreme Court’s decision on these cases before taking action.

Cindy Harmison, city attorney for Lenexa, recommended the approached because she believes the Supreme Court’s decision on those cases may have implications for Kansas.

“I think whatever they decide could have implications on how we would address things going forward. It might actually take care of the issue and give everyone those rights under the federal law,” Harmison said, “or we might have some different guidance in terms of things that you still might want to do at a local level.”

The three Supreme Court cases are Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and Altitude Express, Inc. v. Zarda — in which employees allege they were terminated because of their sexual orientation — and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. EEOC, involving an employee that was allegedly terminated because she was transitioning from male to female.

While several bills were introduced this legislative session to expand the Kansas Act Against Discrimination to create protections for sexual orientation and gender identity, none of them passed.

Harmison noted that several of the non-discrimination bills introduced during this legislative session will roll over into the 2020 legislative session, when they could be taken up again.

Harmison said dates have not been announced, but oral arguments for the Supreme Court cases are anticipated to occur in the fall of 2019, with a decision as early as spring or summer 2020.

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