Kansas cities may vote on nondiscrimination laws

Petitions opposing new non-discrimination ordinances have been certified in Salina and Hutchinson, possibly giving voters in both cities a chance to decide whether to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

In Hutchinson, however, a competing petition seeking to expand that city’s non-discrimination ordinance also has been certified. That petition, sponsored by the Kansas Equality Coalition, wants to replace the non-discrimination ordinance approved by the City Council on June 5 with language giving gay, lesbian and bisexual people full protection from discrimination in all matters of employment, housing and public accommodations. The current ordinance only provides protection against firing from a job or eviction from a home because of a person’s sexual orientation.

The competing petition is sponsored by Awaken Hutchinson and the Kansas Family Policy Council Action and seeks to have the ordinance repealed.

Hutchinson City Manager John Deardoff said the City Council will consider the petitions Sept. 4. The council can either adopt the changes, which would conflict with each other, or agree to put the issue to a public vote within another 90 days, which would make be enough time for the November general election ballot.

In Salina, Saline County Clerk Don Merriman said Thursday that opponents have gathered enough signatures for the city to reconsider a Salina ordinance prohibiting discrimination because of sexual orientation and gender identity. The ordinance protects people from discrimination in housing, public accommodations and employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. It went into effect June 4.

The Salina petition now has to go before the city commission in the next 20 days. If commissioners reject it, the effort to repeal the ordinance will go before voters in the next 90 days.