Fairway council adopts non-discrimination ordinance, making it 13th JoCo city to add LGBTQ+ legal protections

Juliana Garcia - November 22, 2019 8:00 am
Fairway Mayor Melanie Hepperly said the city had spent the past year looking into the idea of an NDO.

The Fairway city council on Thursday adopted a non-discrimination ordinance with legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals, making it the 13th Johnson County municipality to put such a law on its books.

Fairway has been grappling with the exploration of an ordinance for over a year now. Mayor Melanie Hepperly called a special city council meeting for last night specifically to address the issue. Hepperly said she and the council have done their due diligence over the last year to do what’s best for Fairway. Hepperly said although she believes the protections offered by the NDO would have been better handled at the state or federal level, municipalities had to step up due to a lack of action by those officials.

A vast majority of residents she’s heard from have expressed their support of the NDO, Hepperly said. Some have said the process to pass the ordinance took too long, while others have said the city rushed into it, she said. Comments about the length of time taken don’t bother her, she said — but comments about bigotry do.

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“Calling the City of Fairway a bigoted city, that is not true,” Hepperly said. “I know the residents well, I know what the values are of the residents of this city, and we are not a bigoted city.”

Jae Moyer, an activist who has advocated for NDOs in a number of cities, said he hopes his comments toward Councilmember Jim Poplinger from the Nov. 12 city council meeting were not taken as calling Fairway a bigoted city. During that meeting, Moyer said it is homophobic to call an NDO special rights for a special person “and that is the kind of bigotry in this country that we are trying to squash.”

“It is my job as an activist, I feel, to call out homophobia when I see it,” Moyer said during the special city council meeting. “The events of the committee meeting that I sat in on about a month ago were just outlandish, and I think you [Hepperly] felt the same thing.”

Seven members of the public addressed the city council during the public comment section, all indicating they supported passage of the NDO. One resident thanked the city council for passing the ordinance, saying it made Fairway more family friendly.

One Fairway resident said she was headed home to tell her daughter — a lesbian who moved to the east coast because she felt unwelcome and unsafe in Kansas — about the passage of the ordinance. Another resident, who has lived in the city since September 1964, said Fairway has always been an inclusive community.

“The businesses in Fairway are certainly not anti-gay or lesbian, but if it takes a law to convince people of our dedication to inclusiveness, then let’s pass it,” she said. “Fairway has always been the best place to live for everyone.”

The NDO passed unanimously and with no discussion from city council. Councilmembers Poplinger and Gail Gregory were absent.

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