Roeland Park bans discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender identity

Roeland Park, in a revote, became the second city in Kansas to ban discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Mayor Joel Marquardt broke the City Council’s 4-4 tie with a vote in favor.

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

Councilmembers Becky Fast, Jennifer Gunby, Megan England and Teresa Kelly voted in favor. Councilmembers Marek Gliniecki, Mel Croston, Michael Rhoades and Sheri McNeil voted against.

A call to revote on the matter came from residents who wanted to hear from Fast. Fast was absent from the first vote on July 21 when the law failed on a 4-3 vote.

During public comment, Matt Thomas, who lives and owns a business in Roeland Park, requested the council reconsider a vote because he felt Ward 1 was unequally represented. Because Fast represents a number of businesses including his, Thomas said, it was important to count her vote.

Not everyone agreed. Roeland Park resident Joanna Rush urged the council to let the first vote stand. A revote would set a dangerous precedent, she said.

“How do we know if a vote is final?” she said.

Michael Poppa, a Roeland Park resident and the Kansas City metro chair of Equality Kansas, greeted cheerful supporters after the meeting.

“(Passing the law) shows Roeland Park does value us just as much as straight residents,” he said.