Roeland Park considers ban on discrimination for sexual orientation and gender identity

03/18/2014 2:10 PM

03/18/2014 2:10 PM

Roeland Park residents told council members Monday night how they feel about the city possibly becoming the second in Kansas to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Council members Megan England and Jennifer Gundy introduced an ordinance adding protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing and public service on March 3. The ordinance includes exemption for certain non-public groups like religious organizations. Lawrence is currently the only Kansas city with such a law. Across the state line, Kansas City has a similar law.

On Monday the Roeland Park City Council heard public comments on the proposed ordinance. About two dozen residents from the city and across Johnson County attended the meeting and about 10 of them spoke in favor of the ordinance.

John Geither owns several Subway franchise in Roeland Park, Prairie Village and other cities. He said his employees are a diverse group of young and old, gay and straight.

“The last words of the Pledge of Allegiance are ‘liberty and justice for all,’ so I don’t know why any American would be opposed to this,” he said.

Prairie Village resident Andrew Campbell spoke in favor of the ordinance. Campbell, who is originally from Wichita, said he and his husband moved from New York recently and are surprised more cities don’t already have anti-discrimination policies.

“In two or five years, every city will have a law like this, so this is Roeland Park’s opportunity to be one of the first,” he said.

Tom Madigan gathered comments from his Roeland Park neighbors to share with the council. Madigan, who is in favor of the ordinance, said the group he talked to would like council to consider how the law would implemented, and whether it will require a new city position or city funds.

Linda Mau said she was concerned about conflict of interest with some of the members of the council. Jennifer Gunby has donated time and money to Equality Kansas, and Mau said that council members previously were banned from voting on issues involving organizations that they were involved in.

Michael Poppa, a Roeland Park resident who is the Kansas City metro chairman of Equality Kansas, shared letters he said came from two Roeland Park households that could not attend the meeting. Both supported the ordinance.

“This isn’t a social issue. It isn’t a special interest issue. It’s a human issue,” he concluded.

Merriam City Council member Al Frisby attended the meeting in Roeland Park. Frisby said afterward that he would support a similar ordinance in Merriam. Recently he asked city official to investigate whether any discrimination or violence had occurred because of sexual orientation in Merriam, but he said the city found nothing.

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