A KU student hails voters in Idaho and Oregon for supporting gay rights, but finds no comfort in a Florida vote to kill an ordinance outlawing anti-gay bias.
Although separated by hundreds of miles, Eric Moore took solace in the decision of Oregon and Idaho voters who rejected anti-gay referendums.
"It shows people in the United States do not believe that groups of people should be singled out for discrimination," said Moore, president of the Kansas University group Lesbian, Bisexual and Gay Services of Kansas.
Ballot proposals in Oregon and Idaho would have prohibited passage of local laws granting minority status to homosexuals and providing them specific protections against discrimination.
On the other side of the country, voters in Alachua County, Fla., decided Tuesday to repeal an 18-month-old ordinance that outlawed anti-gay bias. American Family Assn., a conservative religious group based in Tupelo, Miss., led the fight against the ordinance.
Moore said the outcome of the Florida vote has obvious repercussions for people living in those jurisdictions. What is less obvious is that referendum campaigns themselves harm homosexuals, he said.
"There is a direct correlation between campaigns of this type and a rise in the incidence of physical threats and violence toward gay and lesbian people," he said. "In places where discrimination is not prohibited, but in fact legalized and encouraged, that will have a very serious and negative effect on the gay, lesbian and bisexual community."
In Oregon, Measure 13 sought to amend the state's constitution to bar future gay-rights laws and would have overturned anti-discrimination laws in Portland, Eugene, Corvallis and Ashland.
It also would have forbidden public schools to teach that homosexuals are the "legal or social" equivalent of other population groups.
Idaho's Proposition 1 would have prevented the state from passing anti-bias measures protecting lesbians, gays and bisexuals and would have barred same-sex marriages and domestic partnerships, discussion of homosexuality in schools and the use of public funds to express acceptance of homosexuality.
In addition, the proposition would have permitted employers to consider sexual orientation as a factor in personnel decisions, which would have overturned an anti-bias law in the town of Troy and a faculty policy at the University of Idaho.
"That's very extreme," Moore said. "This would tell companies that have non-discrimination policies ... that those companies are wrong."
Moore said he wouldn't welcome creation of a system that allowed Kansans to place public questions on the election ballot.
"If initiative and referendum existed in Kansas, there would be a very strong push to have (anti-gay) ballot measures," he said. "At the same time, as people in Oregon and elsewhere have shown, the people of Kansas would say 'no' to discrimination."