Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Sexual orientation bill attracts comments

Lawrence already has protections for gays

March 16, 2005


— Legislation aimed at prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation statewide drew testimony from both sides Tuesday, but no action is planned on the measure.

"Whether it constitutes a problem or not, I don't know," said state Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, chairman of the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Brungardt said he wasn't sure whether the committee would vote on the proposal, which would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations in Kansas on the basis of "actual or perceived heterosexuality, homosexuality or bisexuality."

Ten years ago, Lawrence became the first Kansas town to adopt such a measure.

Supporters of the proposal told personal stories of discrimination based on their homosexuality.

"Currently, it is legal for gays and lesbians to be fired because of our sexual orientation throughout the state of Kansas. Is that fair?" asked Steve Brown, president of the Kansas Democratic Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered Caucus.

Paul Angle of Manhattan said he was fired by a department store because he was gay.

"We should have our work based on not who we are but whether or not we can do our jobs," Angle said.

But anti-homosexual preacher the Rev. Fred Phelps Sr. said there was no evidence of discrimination based on homosexuality, which he described as a "monstrous sin against God." He said homosexuals wanted the state's approval for their "filthy lifestyle."

In written testimony, Allen Martin of Lawrence, a former human relations specialist with the city, said "cries from religious zealots who quote Scripture should be disregarded."

"We don't stone our citizens for violating the Sabbath. Neither should we deny the basic civil rights of any minority group of citizens to due process and protection under the law," he said.

Two Kansas cities have adopted laws protecting gays and lesbians.

In April 1995, Lawrence adopted the "Simply Equal" ordinance that protects homosexuals from discrimination in housing and employment in town. Until last year, when Topeka passed a similar ordinance, Lawrence remained the only Kansas municipality with such a law on the books.

The legislation is Senate Bill 285.

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