Leawood council will discuss possible non-discrimination ordinance at future meeting

Rob Groves presented a petition in support of a non-discrimination ordinance signed by Leawood residents to the city council.

The Leawood City Council on Monday moved to place discussion of a possible non-discrimination ordinance granting legal protections to LGBTQ+ individuals on the agenda of next month’s city council meeting.

The unanimous decision by the council came after a man named Rob Groves presented the city with a petition he’d circulated among residents asking for the governing body to consider passing an NDO like several neighboring cities have in recent months and years.

Groves spoke during public comment at Monday’s meeting, laying out a series of arguments in favor of the city adopting an NDO. He said that Leawood could establish itself as an inclusive city by being proactive on the issue. Groves envisioned signage at the entrance of the city that might say something like “Welcome to Leawood,” and wondered how people who passed by it would interpret it.

“I just ask you what does that mean. Welcome to Leawood, most of you? Welcome to Leawood, all of you, maybe?” Groves said.

Following Groves’ remarks, Leawood Mayor Peggy Dunn noted that the council had agreed in January to add consideration of a non-discrimination ordinance to its list of short term goals, a classification that generally means the city hopes to get an issue addressed in one to two years. She also asked City Attorney Patricia Bennett to clarify what legal protections already exist for certain classes of people in the city. Leawood city code already offers protections from discrimination based on a number of classifications, including race, religion and sex. Bennett said that in Leawood the term “sex” has been construed to “include sexual orientation and gender identity.” Bennett also noted that cases pending before the United States Supreme Court may add some clarity to legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals at the federal level, but that those decisions likely won’t be handed down until next spring.

City Administrator Scott Lambers told the council he planned to add discussion of a non-discrimination ordinance to the agenda of the council’s next meeting, which is scheduled for August 12, saying he wanted to get the ball rolling on the issue soon.

“Given the lack of action by the state legislature, the sooner the better,” Lambers said.

To date, seven cities in the Shawnee Mission Post’s 14-city coverage area have adopted non-discrimination ordinances. Roeland Park was the first city in the area to do so back in 2014. Over the past year, Prairie Village, Mission, Merriam, Westwood Hills, Mission Woods and Mission Hills have passed NDOs, and Westwood’s council is considering one as well.