Lenexa mayor directs city staff to draft non-discrimination ordinance for council discussion this fall

Jay Senter - August 14, 2019 9:00 am
Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm.

Following an executive session with the city’s attorney regarding analysis of potential legal issues related to the kinds of non-discrimination ordinances adopted by nearby Johnson County cities, Lenexa Mayor Mike Boehm on Tuesday directed city staff to prepare a draft NDO for consideration by the governing body in the coming months.

In May, the city passed a non-binding resolution affirming its opposition to discrimination of any kind. At the time, the governing body indicated that it planned to wait to see whether cases pending before the U.S. Supreme Court provided any clarity about federal protections from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. During a council meeting this spring, Boehm said he believed a statewide law would provide more consistency and ensure there were no enforcement challenges at the city level.

Those concerns still persist, Boehm said Wednesday, but he believes it is time to put policy language together for public discussion by the council.

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“This shouldn’t be a signal to anyone that we will or won’t approve anything,” he said. “By our previous actions, I think we have indicated our general support for the concept. But the last thing we want to do is pass something that feels good but doesn’t really accomplish anything.”

He emphasized that he continues to believe the state or federal legislature would be the preferred jurisdiction for non-discrimination laws, but because there was little movement on the issue at those levels, it was worth consideration at the city level.

“The preference has been and still is that the state or federal government would be the better place to handle this,” he said. “Something uniform would be better than having a bunch of cities with different ordinances.”

Since Lenexa passed the resolution on discrimination in May, more Johnson County cities — including cities similar in size to Lenexa — have moved forward with the drafting of city level ordinances that offer legal protection from discrimination for LGBTQ+ individuals. On Monday, Leawood adopted a non-discrimination ordinance on first reading, becoming the largest Johnson County city to date to add such a law to its books. Shawnee’s city council voted to have city staff draft a non-discrimination ordinance for future consideration at its committee meeting Tuesday. And Overland Park will discuss a possible NDO at a committee meeting next month.

The Lenexa council included an executive session to discuss “Legal issues associated with a non-discrimination ordinance” as part of the agenda for its committee of the whole meeting Tuesday. Lenexa City Attorney Cindy Harmison said Wednesday morning that Boehm directed her to work on a draft NDO for consideration after the conclusion of the executive session and the adjournment of the committee of the whole meeting.

Lenexa Communications Director Denise Redina said the draft ordinance is likely to come before the governing body for public discussion in late September or October.

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