Advocates for people who are gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender asked the Wichita City Council on Tuesday to reinstate a civil rights ordinance that was rescinded in 1999 and include in it a provision for sexual orientation.
Now, the Kansas Equality Coalition and its supporters are seeking an ordinance in Wichita and other cities in Kansas that would bar discrimination against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The reach of such a civil rights ordinance would, for example, help parents trying to enroll their transgender child in school or help interracial couples who have trouble trying to find a place to live, the Rev. Jackie Carter, pastor of First Metropolitan Community Church, told the council.
Wichita used to have a civil rights ordinance, but it was rescinded in 1999, apparently because it duplicated a state ordinance, City Manager Bob Layton said after the council meeting.
Earlier in Wichita’s history, in 1977, the City Commission approved an ordinance that banned discrimination against gay people in housing and employment. It was overturned by voters in 1978 by a ratio of 4 to 1.
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On Tuesday, in response to a request from council members Lavonta Williams and Janet Miller, Layton said he would research the old ordinance’s history and report back on that and on what would be involved in enacting a new ordinance.
Kansas Equality Coalition members have made similar recent pitches to city councils in Hutchinson and Salina.
Manhattan approved a similar ordinance in 2010, then repealed it in 2011 after new city commissioners were elected.
Some businesses and churches oppose such an ordinance, saying it could potentially cost them more or cause them to violate their religious beliefs.
Ron Matson, chairman of the sociology department at Wichita State University, spoke on behalf of such an ordinance before the Wichita council on Tuesday. He said that although it has been said that you can’t legislate morality, laws do “impart morality and sensibility to a community.” He acknowledged after the meeting that although state and federal civil rights laws are in place to protect people, “it’s easy to ignore those policies.”
A local ordinance “helps to create a moral climate and a spirit. … We want to be a gay-friendly environment,” he said.