Opinion: Roeland Park needs to ban discrimination

07/15/2014 5:34 PM

07/15/2014 5:34 PM

At its meeting next Monday, the Roeland Park City Council can be a leader for all of Johnson County in banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Council members have spent plenty of time reviewing a proposed ordinance, which was first slated to come to a vote three months ago.

Instead, when concerns were raised by opponents, elected officials held several public meetings to discuss the matter and to listen to residents and others.

Earlier this month, Roeland Park council members heard from Kansas City Council member Jermaine Reed. He said his city’s anti-discrimination ordinance had not been a financial burden for taxpayers.

By this time, positions on both sides of the battle are pretty much drawn, and further postponing a vote would serve no purpose.

Approving the ordinance is the right thing to do.

It gives legal protection against discrimination in employment and housing based on sexual orientation or gender identity. This is the same kind of protection offered through other valuable anti-discrimination laws, such as those dealing with race and age.

Realistically, the ordinance likely would have little effect on day-to-day life in the city of just under 7,000 people. But simply having the law on the books should help build awareness that discrimination won’t be tolerated in the city.

Roeland Park can show other, larger Johnson County cities such as Overland Park, Olathe, Shawnee, Lenexa and Leawood that moving ahead with this kind of law can be done in a thoughtful manner.

And in the future, maybe it won’t be so time-consuming.

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