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Archive for Thursday, January 6, 2005

Challenge filed on Topeka ban of discrimination against gays

City ordinance could be headed for a vote

January 6, 2005

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— Less than two months after the Topeka City Council approved an ordinance banning discrimination against homosexuals in city hiring, opponents have collected enough signatures to force the city to either rescind the ordinance or put it to a citywide vote.

The Shawnee County elections commissioner confirmed Tuesday petitions fighting the ordinance had more than the 3,709 signatures of registered city voters required for certification.

Petitioners filed the signatures for review by the elections office Dec. 15. Shirley Phelps-Roper, a member of Westboro Baptist Church, which spearheaded the petition drive, said the petitions contained 6,333 names. The central Topeka church, led by the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr., pickets across the nation, carrying signs with anti-gay slogans.

City Atty. Brenden Long has said that if the petitions are certified the city has 20 days to decide whether to rescind the ordinance or put it before voters. A vote would have to come within 90 days. If approved, the measure would not only rescind the ordinance but try to prevent council members from passing a similar one in the future.

The City Council voted 5-4 on Nov. 16 to pass the ordinance, which had originally also banned discrimination in housing and public accommodations.

Phelps-Roper said Westboro Baptist Church circulated the petitions to its members and to other churches.

Councilwoman Tiffany Muller, who helped sponsor the original measure, said she hoped voters would learn more about the measure before casting their ballots. She said many people who signed the petition didn't understand what it did and said they were tricked into signing it.

County Election Commissioner Elizabeth Ensley said 64 people asked that their names be removed from the petition after it was submitted.

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