Human Rights Campaign places bullseye on Kansas

Capitol Bureau

TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The Human Rights Campaign found in its 2019 State Equality Index that Kansas’ laws were in the “High Priority to Achieve Basic Equality” section.

Kansas is one of 28 states with the lowest equality rights in the country, according to the index.

“In Kansas, it is still legal to fire somebody for being gay. It is still legal to evict somebody if they’re a lesbian. It is still legal to deny service if somebody is transgender,” said Thomas Witt, executive director for Equality Kansas.

Kansas’ current non-discrimination laws protect one’s religion, race, sex and military states. However, it lacks protection regarding sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression.

Equality Kansas has introduced identical bills to the House and Senate that add these to the list, but lawmakers have yet to discuss them.

“We’re disappointed that leadership has not yet let us even have as much as a hearing on this bill,” Witt said. “We are going to be pressing legislative leaders this year for hearings and floor action.”

Many Republicans do not support the bills, with only two Representatives co-sponsoring the House bill.

Representative Tom Cox (R-Shawnee) believes that if the bill is introduced to the house, it will pass. Cox is one of the two Republicans in support of it.

“It’s a small subset of people who become very vocal who disagree with this, disagree with the issues as a whole, really stemming from a religious standpoint,” Cox said.

The bills feature a religious exception clause so that religions will not have to compromise their beliefs or ways.

“I don’t truly know why people continue to oppose it, especially when there is a religious exception, which seems like a very good compromise,” Cox said.

Currently, there are 38 Representatives who co-sponsor the bill and 18 Senators. Witt said that is enough to pass it, it is just a matter of when – or if – it will be heard.

There are currently about twenty cities across the state that have local non-discriminatory laws, which covers more than one million Kansans, Witt said.

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