By 4-3 vote, Roeland Park City Council rejects anti-bias ordinance

07/21/2014 9:41 PM

07/21/2014 10:35 PM

The Roeland Park City Council on Monday night defeated a proposal that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

After taking public comments in the evening, the council defeated the measure on a 4-3 vote. One member was absent.

The law would have prohibited discrimination in employment, housing and public service because of race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender identity or military status.

Most of those protections mirror state and federal laws, but sexual orientation and gender identity were unique to only one other city in Kansas, Lawrence. Across the state line, Kansas City has a similar law.

Following the decision, council member Jennifer Gunby was choked up.

“It’s 2014,” she said. “To even be talking about this seems dated to me.”

Michael Poppa, the Kansas City metro chairman for Equality Kansas, hugged supporters after the vote. A Roeland Park resident, Poppa said he believed a majority of residents supported the ban but a vocal minority had a greater influence. He said a general statement against discrimination or a proposed human rights committee would not have carried the same weight.

“Getting together around a barbecue is not going to solve our problems,” he said.

A visibly upset Councilman Marek Gliniecki said before the vote that the thought of disappointing anyone caused him great distress. Gliniecki, a Catholic, said he would vote “no” because it did not fit church doctrine, but the decision was not easy.

“This was very hard for me,” he said. “I’m afraid it will affect my relationships.”

Mayor Joel Marquardt said that if he had voted, he would have voted “yes.” While he was disappointed the ordinance did not pass, Marquardt said he respected all of the council members for voting how they thought their constituents wanted them to.

The proposed ordinance had dominated Roeland Park city meetings since Gunby and council member Megan England introduced it March 3. The city delayed a vote three times while fine-tuning the language.

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