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Archive for Friday, January 28, 2005

Topeka to vote March 1 on blocking gay anti-discrimination ordinances

January 28, 2005

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— Voters in the state capital will decide March 1 whether to repeal a ban on discrimination based on sexual orientation in municipal employment and whether to prevent the city from extending other protections to gays and lesbians.

The City Council, faced with a mandate to either adopt those policies or put them on the ballot, voted unanimously for an election.

In November, the council voted 5-4 for an ordinance prohibiting the city from discriminating against gays and lesbians in hiring and employment decisions.

The decision caused members of Topeka's Westboro Baptist Church, headed by Fred Phelps and known for its picketing against homosexuality, to draft a counterproposal and lead a petition drive.

Their counterproposal would prevent the city from recognizing gays and lesbians as a protected class in its anti-discrimination policies, repealing the November ordinance.

Earlier this month, election officials confirmed Westboro Baptist and other supporters of the proposal had collected the 3,700 signatures from voters necessary to force its consideration.

City Atty. Brenden Long said Kansas law required an election or council adoption. The council considered only a public vote, which will coincide with the city primary.

Long also said if voters approve the proposition, the council won't be able to repeal it for 10 years.

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