Fairway passes anti-discrimination resolution, agrees to explore adopting non-discrimination ordinance

Jim Poplinger
Fairway Councilmember Jim Poplinger led the city administration committee’s effort to pass a resolution voicing opposition to discrimination in the city.

The city of Fairway has decided to explore the possibility of adopting a nondiscrimination ordinance that would provide legal protections for individuals in the city on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

The city council’s unanimous decision Monday night came shortly after the council voted 7-1 to pass a resolution declaring Fairway’s rejection of all forms of discrimination in the city. A group of six people, including a few Fairway residents as well as state Rep. Rui Xu, encouraged the city to go a step further than a resolution and pass an ordinance.

State Rep. Rui Xu urged the Fairway council to pass a nondiscrimination ordinance, not just a resolution.

“I really would encourage a full ordinance with legal protections rather than just the resolution,” Xu said, citing challenges at the state level for the issue to be heard in committee in the Kansas House of Representatives. “Ultimately, our goal is to make all our constituents feel like they’re at home, and I think for too long, for too many of our constituents, I don’t think they’ve been able to fully feel like they’re at home because they can get fired or they can be denied housing because of who they are, who they love.

“I think that it’s a tremendous opportunity to take leadership on that, because I really do have doubts on whether the state or the national level of government can take care of this.”

After hearing their testimony, the council discussed the issue and agreed to pass the resolution while also taking first steps to look into the possibility of adopting an ordinance. The item will be taken up by the city’s administration committee, which drafted the resolution.

Councilmembers urged that a resolution or ordinance must reflect that the city rejects all forms of discrimination. Prior to discussion related to an ordinance, Councilmember Jim Poplinger said that when drafting the resolution, it was the consensus of the city’s administration committee, of which he is chair, that “as a city, we are very ill-equipped to try to address discrimination issues on an ordinance basis.”

“Both the state and federal governments have agencies in place, policies, procedures in place that address those kinds of things; it would be very complex,” Poplinger said, citing open issues still working their way up through the U.S. Supreme Court.

“On the other hand, it’s the policy of the city certainly in its own dealings, not to discriminate against anybody. We felt it appropriate to put it in a resolution, put it in writing.”

Councilmember Dan Bailey said he “supported the general sentiment of the crowd” and voted against a resolution in favor of pursuing the passage of an ordinance.

Fairway resident Jenna Brofsky, who is running for city council, said a resolution rejecting discrimination ‘lacks teeth’ because it has no enforcement mechanisms.

Fairway resident Jenna Brofsky said she appreciates the sentiment of the resolution but said it “lacks teeth,” unlike an ordinance with enforcement mechanisms. She said the goal of an NDO is to fill the gap in the list of classes already protected at the state and federal levels.

“I don’t know why somebody would choose to live in Fairway who is a member of the LGBTQ community when they can move to Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Mission Hills, basically everywhere that we touch, and they’re given these legal protections, but they’re not given those protections in Fairway,” Brofsky said. “I want to live in a city that reflects our values, and I think our values are inclusivity.”

Councilmember Kelly-Ann Buszek asked how a nondiscrimination ordinance would be worded. Brian Shapley, a Merriam resident and representative of Equality Kansas, offered up the services of Equality Kansas to help Fairway draft a nondiscrimination ordinance. The organization submitted to Fairway city staff a copy of the city of Mission’s nondiscrimination ordinance as an example of policy on the issue.

Also last night, Leawood became the largest city in northeast Johnson County to adopt a nondiscrimination ordinance. Shawnee will take up discussion of adopting an NDO in council committee tonight.