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Friday, 03 January 2020 02:59

Olathe Encourages But Does Not Require Non-Discrimination Of LGBTQ People

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In Kansas, Olathe City Council was to consider a non-discrimination ordinance for LGBTQ people.

This was an opportunity to promote equality and diversity while providing protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. In this way, all Olathe residents would feel that they were living on an equal footing. That was the plan.

No non-discrimination law for LGBTQ people existed in the city of Olathe until now. After the approval of nondiscrimination ordinances in many cities in the state of Kansas, such as Merriam, Prairie Village, Roeland Park, Mission Hills, Overland Park, and Kansas City, the city of Olathe has embarked on its own.

The City Council held a vote and, despite opposition from some, the ordinance was approved. But what a disappointment! The ordinance doesn’t go far enough because it doesn’t protect. I even come to wonder why they created it.

While it condemns discriminatory acts based on sexual orientation and gender identity, it provides for mediation between the two parties, supervised by the city, in the event of a problem. However, as defined by the order, the mediation is encouraged but not required. We can, therefore, consider it void.

“I’m frustrated because for two years you’ve had people coming in and asking about this,” said Brett Hoedl, who chairs the area chapter of Equality Kansas, to the city council. “This doesn’t provide protection, but it provides the illusion that there is protection.”

He’s right. What’s the point of opposing discrimination if nothing happens to the individual who discriminates?

I don’t understand why Olathe didn’t take inspiration from the ordinances approved in neighboring cities that offer clear protection to LGBTQ residents.

Now the Council of Olathe City is waiting to see what will happen at the national level. Indeed, two acts have been introduced that would provide federal protections for LGBTQ people:

  • the Equality Act would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protections listed in the Civil Rights Act. Approved by the House of Representatives in May 2019, the law has since been on extended hold in the Senate.
  • the Fairness For All Act is similar in that it would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Civil Rights Act. The difference is that it will also expand the list of religious exemptions. That’s why the Mormon Church supports it.

So going back to Olathe, Mayor Michael Copeland and the other members of the city council have indicated that they may reconsider the ordinance if there are no federal protections for LGBTQ people. As if they couldn’t protect us locally right away...

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