Archive for Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Kansas bill would bar discrimination based on sexual orientation, gender

March 12, 2014

A bill was introduced Tuesday by a Kansas lawmaker that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The measure was launched in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee by state Rep. Louis Ruiz, D-Kansas City.

"We are pleased and encouraged by the introduction of a bill that will protect LGBT Kansans from discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity," said Sandra Meade, state chairwoman of Equality Kansas.

Meade thanked Ruiz and House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, for taking the initiative to advance the issue.

The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Kansas Act Against Discrimination. The act prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, employment and housing based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin and ancestry.

The issue of gay rights exploded earlier this session when conservatives tried to pass a bill that set up legal protections for those who oppose same-sex marriage on religious grounds.

But gay rights and business groups blasted the measure, saying it would have allowed widespread discrimination. The House-approved bill died in the Senate, and legislative leaders have said they will not take up the issue again this session.

Concerning Ruiz's proposal, the next step is for the bill to be assigned to a committee. If it goes to Federal and State Affairs, the chairman, state Rep. Steve Brunk, R-Wichita, would have to make the decision on whether to hold a hearing. Brunk didn't want to speculate on that, saying he hadn't read the bill yet.

Similar legislation has been approved on three separate occasions in a Senate committee but has never advanced further.

Tom Witt, director of the gay rights group Kansas Equality, said the anti-discrimination protections are needed.

"It's clear there are LGBT people in this state who face discrimination on a pretty regular basis. They're trying to pass laws that would legalize and permanently enshrine discrimination in the statute books," he said.

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