Last month, we asked our readers what issues they wanted to hear the candidates running for local office address ahead of the August primary. Based on the (ample) input we received, we developed a five-item questionnaire for candidates running for city council in Overland Park.
Today, we’re sharing the candidates’ responses to question two:
Overland Park has thus far declined to take up a non-discrimination ordinance providing legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, with leaders saying they hope the legislature will pass a state law that addresses the issue. Do you support this “wait and see” approach? Do you believe the city council should formally consider a city level NDO?
City Council Ward 1
Terry Happer-Scheier (incumbent)
As to the non-discrimination ordinance we are committed to our Resolution No 4507 that
rejects discrimination of any kind, to include “sexual orientation or gender identify or expression.”
Adoption of this resolution is consistent with the Overland Park Governing Body’s publicly stated opinion that anti-discrimination laws are best enacted and enforced at the state and federal level. Both have agencies in place to conduct investigations, prosecute claims and court systems to adjudicate claims. The city, if it were to pass a NDO would have limited jurisdiction to enforce it. A Supreme Court ruling will provide a better foundation upon which to consider a NDO for Overland Park. It is Overland Park’s further commitment to be sure that any NDO considered for adoption be both meaningful and legally enforceable. I support this approach. For the reasons as stated above I believe we should not formally consider a city level NDO.
I do not support a wait and see approach. As the biggest city in Johnson County, Overland Park should be leading the way. Overland Park was waiting to see if the Kansas Legislature would pass a statewide ban on discrimination against LGBTQ+ Kansans. But the legislative session, and the time for waiting, is over.
As the only LBGT candidate running for office in Overland Park, I know how important legal protections from discrimination are for the community. No one should be fired, evicted, or denied services just for being LGBT. However, a non-discrimination order is about more than that. It’s a way of showing our friends, co-workers, and neighbors that they are a part of the community. It’s past time that Overland Park stepped up and passed an NDO.
I fully support passing a non-discrimination ordinance and will work with community leaders and other councilmembers to implement one. As one of the largest cities in Kansas, Overland Park should be a leader and set an example for other municipalities in the state. The city’s first job is to protect its residents and I think a non-discrimination ordinance would send a clear message that we equally value everyone who chooses to live, work and play in Overland Park.
It’s unfortunate the Overland Park City Council has not joined many of the smaller municipalities in Johnson County by passing an NDO yet, but I look forward to helping make that happen when elected.
City Council Ward 2
I oppose discrimination of any kind and would not oppose the City adopting a proclamation to that effect. However, as the issue of whether LGBTQ individuals are protected from discrimination under the federal civil rights act is currently being considered by the U.S. Supreme Court, I believe the City should wait until the Supreme Court rules on the issue before adopting an ordinance. If the Supreme Court rules LGBTQ discrimination falls under the protection of federal civil rights law, the remedies under federal and state law are far more comprehensive than anything the City can provide. If the Supreme Court determines LGBTQ individuals are not protected from discrimination under federal law, adoption of an ordinance should be considered at that time.
Paul Lyons (incumbent)
I supported a resolution approved by the city council that urged the state to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the state’s non-discrimination law. I believe everyone should be treated with respect and deserve to be accepted for who they are. Our city is stronger when its citizens are diverse in culture, experience, beliefs, and lifestyle.
I believe the best course to providing legal protection for LGBTQ+ individuals is at the state and federal level. They have the knowledge, experience and legal authority to adjudicate discrimination violations. It would be a significant expansion of the city’s regulatory scope to become involved in disputes between employees and employers, complaints over public accommodations, and allegations of potential housing discrimination. I believe a local ordinance would be difficult to enforce and could risk involvement of considerable city resources. Overland Park has a day-time population of 140,000 hard-working employees who could potentially file a discrimination complaint with the city.
Next year, the U.S. Supreme Court will consider the question of whether sexual orientation and gender identity are already protected by the current federal non-discrimination law. If they decide affirmatively, a city level NDO becomes a moot point. Otherwise, their decision could have significant impact on the content of any ordinance we would consider.
In my view, the LGBTQ+ community would be better served to focus their efforts at the state and federal level where success will be far more meaningful and definitive than encouraging local jurisdictions to pass unenforceable legislation.
I am interested in exploring ideas for city government to become more engaged with the LGBTQ+ community. We need to develop a dialog about their experiences in or city and discuss ways to address issues. The LGBTQ+ community could become a positive force in the city working toward elimination of discrimination for all citizens. I want Overland Park to be seen as a welcoming city looking toward the future. We can accomplish it by working together on solutions that make Overland Park an even better place to live.
First of all it is sad that federal, state and local governments still have to address discrimination in 2019. We should be at a point in our history where all people can enjoy their lives without having to worry about being discriminated against for one reason or the other. Besides missing public service the other core reason I decided to run for City Council is because there is a unique opportunity at the local level to enact swift and positive changes without all of the layers of bureaucracy. If Topeka is not going to pass a state law addressing discrimination then the Overland Park City Council should formally consider and pass a city level Non-Discrimination Ordinance. If the majority of Overland Park residents support a city level NDO then the City Council must listen and take action. Although a city level NDO does not provide the same protections as a state law it is still better than not having anything
City Council Ward 5
Faris Farassati (Incumbent)
I believe Overland Park should adopt a non-discrimination ordinance. I understand that this is a much bigger issue than just Overland Park and the Supreme Court is scheduled to make a ruling, but I’m in favor of moving this forward on a local level. I believe in the Constitution where all men and women are created equal. I believe in the Pledge of Allegiance that ends with two important words: “for all.” In my opinion, “all” means each and every human being and that interpretation is not for me to judge.
Did not respond.
Tomorrow we’ll publish the candidates’ responses to item number three:
Earlier this year, the council adopted the recommendations of the months-long Forward OP planning process, which called for more modern approaches to transportation and infrastructure; a wider variety of housing options; and development of more spaces and events to encourage people gathering together. Do you support the Forward OP vision? If elected, how would you work to see it implemented?