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Prairie Village council passes LGBTQ measure to applause, cheers

The Prairie Village City Council on Monday approved an ordinance that shields LGBTQ individuals from many types of discrimination within the city.

It’s a decision that culminates more than three months of sometimes contentious public debate on the issue and paves the way for other Johnson County municipalities considering similar legislation.

The measure passed by a unanimous vote, which was greeted by applause and cheering from a council chamber filled mostly with supporters of the ordinance.

“I’m hopeful that the vote we take tonight will emphatically say to everyone in the LGBTQ community that we see you, we love you and you are welcome here in Prairie Village,” said council member Tucker Poling, who introduced the ordinance with council member Chad Herring and spent almost a year working behind-the-scenes to get the issue before the board.

Mayor Laura Wassmer, who was overseeing her final meeting as mayor, said she hoped the ordinance would serve as a model for other communities considering similar measures.

City officials in Mission and Merriam are set to soon vote on their own antidiscrimination ordinances.

Prairie Village’s measure bans discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity when it comes to housing, employment or receiving public services from stores, restaurants or other businesses. The City Prosecutor’s office will investigate discrimination claims, and a magistrate judge could issue fines of up to $1,000 per violation.

It will affect all businesses and landlords within the city but does not apply to religious institutions or non-profit private clubs.

In past meetings, supporters have said that the ordinance was necessary because although state and federal laws currently ban discrimination against many protected groups, they do not cover sexual orientation or gender identity.

Before the vote, Prairie Village business owner Trey Jadlow told the council he was concerned that the ordinance infringed on his First Amendment rights as a Christian if he was not allowed to tell an LGBTQ employee that he believed his or her lifestyle was sinful.

“This ordinance is essentially outlawing the practice of biblical Christianity,” Jadlow said.

City Attorney David Waters said the ordinance would not affect a business owner’s ability to practice or express their religious beliefs unless he or she used someone’s LGBTQ status as a reason to deny the person a job or treat an LGBTQ employee differently than other employees.

Herring noted that six Prairie Village churches and a synagogue have written letters of support for the ordinance.

“Too often I think these considerations are juxtaposing religion against neighbors,” said Herring, who is a pastor.

In other business, the council directed staff to move forward with final designs for North Park, an almost 3-acre space being built on the former location of the Faith Lutheran Church at 67th Street and Roe Avenue.

The Prairie Village Council directed staff to move forward with North Park. Tammy Ljungblad

Scott Bingham with BBN Architects reviewed the park design, which will include a garden, a bocce court, two separate playground areas for children younger than 5 years and older than 5 years, a quarter-mile paved walking path, two picnic shelters, a restroom building and a commemorative plaque honoring Faith Lutheran, which occupied the site for more than 6o years.

Council members said they supported the design but asked Bingham and city staff to look at how much extra it would cost to build the two shelters and the restroom facility in a way that would make it possible to add solar panels or other renewable energy sources in the future.

Senior Project Manager Melissa Prenger told the council that while upgrading the buildings is certainly possible, it may exceed the park’s $1 million budget.

David Twiddy: