After being postponed four times in as many months, a vote has finally been scheduled for the proposed anti-discrimination policy in Roeland Park, Kan. The city council will vote on the measure July 21.
The council has been considering since March a policy that would extend legal protection beyond state and federal baselines, to include sexual orientation, gender identity and veteran status. Its passage would make the community of less than 7,000 residents the second city in Kansas – after Lawrence – with such an ordinance.
Progress on the proposal has been slowed by controversy. The city has hosted a number of town hall meetings, workshops, and question and answer sessions to allow community members to voice their opinions and get more information.
“The council itself hasn’t had much time to discuss it as a council,” said City Council member Marek Glincieki.
Glincieki observed that the increased citizen participation has made discussion of the measure more public than usual.
“There tends to be a lot of people lined up to express their viewpoint,” he added, “and less interaction between council members.”
Councilman Glincieki cites the inclusion of sexual orientation and gender identity as the source of the controversy and increased public attention.
Opponents of the nondiscrimination law have distributed fliers and spoken out before the council. Religious freedom implications and fears that the city would be burdened by lawsuits are some of the main concerns raised. For Council member and co-sponsor of the proposal Jennifer Gunby, it’s about bringing Roeland Park into the twenty-first century.
“Almost 50 percent of U.S. is covered by a similar ordinance,” Gunby said, “and they are not having issues with religious freedom. They are not having bankruptcies due to lawsuits. It’s going very smoothly.”
Councilwoman Gunby added that ideally, complaints about discrimination would be dealt with in mediation – before litigation would be an issue. Without such a measure no mechanism exists even to report instances of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.