Kansas candidates for governor are split on bringing back an order protecting gay and lesbian state employees from discrimination.
Gov. Sam Brownback in 2015 rescinded an executive order that barred discrimination against state employees on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation. Former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius issued the order in 2007.
Brownback’s decision received new attention last week when he was asked about it during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing to be ambassador at large for international religious freedom. He said the Legislature should decide whether to extend the protections.
The Eagle sent email inquiries to Republican and Democratic gubernatorial candidates asking whether they would reinstate the order – and, if not, whether they shared Brownback’s reasoning.
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On the Republican side, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer and Ed O’Malley responded.
None of the three men said they would reinstate the order; Colyer didn’t answer the question.
On the Democratic side, former Wichita mayor Carl Brewer, former lawmaker Josh Svaty and House Minority Leader Jim Ward responded. All said they would reinstate the order.
Jeff Colyer, Republican
“Lt. Governor Colyer is not currently serving in the role of Kansas’ Governor. That job still belongs to Sam Brownback. Dr. Colyer won’t be making any policy announcements until he is officially in office and gives the State of the State address in January.” – spokeswoman Kara Fullmer
Kris Kobach, Republican
“As Governor, Secretary Kobach would not put Governor Sebelius’ executive order back in place. The Legislature has the option to debate, propose and pass legislation on this issue or any other at which time he would carefully review the legislation.” – spokeswoman Samantha Poetter
Ed O’Malley, Republican
“These protections should be in place, but it should be done via legislation. We must foster an innovative, creative and empowered state government workforce if we are to find ways to innovate and be more efficient. Providing basic protections that have become the norm in the private sector just makes sense.” – O’Malley
Carl Brewer, Democrat
“I believe it is our responsibility to protect everyone from discrimination in the state of Kansas, including those targeted for their gender identity or sexual orientation. I would reinstate former Governor Sebelius’ executive order to ensure employees of the state of Kansas are judged on the quality of their work, not on their gender or personal relationships.” – Brewer
Josh Svaty, Democrat
“As Governor, I would reinstate Governor Sebelius’ executive order. The Administrative Branch must lead – and that means setting an example for others to follow and showing people around the country that Kansas values a diverse workforce. Furthermore, unlike some other candidates who talk big but vote otherwise, I actually have a legislative record defending LGBTQ rights.” – Svaty
Jim Ward, Democrat
“Discrimination against fellow Kansans is not what Kansas stands for. As governor, I would reinstate the executive order, in addition to encouraging the legislature to enact a law protecting every Kansan from discrimination.” – Ward
When Brownback rescinded the order in February 2015 through a new order, he said the new order “ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did.”
The action came after same-sex marriage became available in Kansas in November 2014 and before it was legalized nationwide in June 2015.
In the wake of the order’s cancellation, Sebelius told the Associated Press she had signed it to signal that Kansas was a tolerant state that wanted a diverse workforce.