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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Senate ponders bill banning discrimination against gays

Committee takes no action

February 6, 2007

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— Jeff Potter of Horton said Tuesday that everything was going good at his job where he was working as a machinist in a tool and die shop.

He was being groomed to buy the business when the owner asked if he was homosexual, Potter told the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Potter said he answered that he was.

He was then fired.

That left Potter without a job and health insurance.

Because state law doesn't ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, he said he was also left without any legal recourse.

"Never before have I felt so alone, abandoned and vulnerable," he said.

Potter and others testified in favor of Senate Bill 163 which would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on sexual orientation. State law already prohibits discrimination based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, family status, national origin or ancestry.

The committee took no action on the measure.

Chairman Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, said he would confer with other committee members in private to determine if they wanted to work on the legislation.

Personally, he said, he supported banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

"It's a fairness thing. I've had concerns that people are being discriminated against for no good reason," Brungardt said.

Only one person spoke against the bill -- state Rep. Janice Pauls, D-Hutchinson.

She said Kansans with strong religious beliefs against homosexuality shouldn't be forced to hire a homosexual.

State Sen. Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, however, disagreed, saying it was wrong for people to be denied work because of their sexual orientation.

"It is incredibly unfair and offends my sense of justice," he said.

Pauls also said homosexuals should not be a protected class, such as African-Americans, because African-Americans have no choice in their color.

"Those of a different sexual orientation are not visible in our society unless they choose to be," she said

But Thomas Witt, chair of the Kansas Equality Coalition, said courts have ruled that sexual orientation is unchangeable.

And, he added, although the history of discrimination against African-Americans is different than that of gays and lesbians, "it does not mean that one group is `more deserving' of not being discriminated against than another."

Witt said 27 states have adopted some level of protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation

Bonnie Cuevas of Topeka said her son lives out of state because of the lack of protections in Kansas.

"It does not make sense that we are now fighting a war in Iraq to establish democracy and freedom for its citizens, while in the United States our gay and lesbian citizens have not yet been granted full equality under the law," she said.

The Kansas Human Rights Commission, which is charged with enforcing anti-discrimination laws, took no stand on the bill.

Comments

mom_of_three 7 years, 10 months ago

That is interesting. The state wants to ban discrimination on sexual orientation, but yet, didn't that just happen with the marriage ban last year???

Emily Hadley 7 years, 10 months ago

Babysteps. When people are being unreasonable, you often have to take them back to the most basic part of the argument and work your way back to the full issue.

If this goes through, we'll get right back to the marriage issue, SB 163 in hand.

: )

white_mountain 7 years, 10 months ago

"She said Kansans with strong religious beliefs against homosexuality shouldn't be forced to hire a homosexual."

Why do Christians always confuse this country with a theocracy?

jonas 7 years, 10 months ago

Nefariously difficult to prove, this will be. . .

ksmoderate 7 years, 10 months ago

It's about d*mn time our Legislature starts talking about this!

RE: The poor schmuck in the article- Someone needs to explain to his a-hole ex-boss that being homosexual has NO hold whatsoever on how that poor dude did his job.

feeble 7 years, 10 months ago

"If you want to force employers to NOT fire anyone, then they should come up with a law that prevents employees from QUITTING without justification and allow the business owner to sue the employee to recover costs such as traininng, added expense to find a replacement, etc."

-Bowhunter99

I'm sorry, but that's completely stupid. An employer can already get enough "protection" by having an employee sign a NDA/non-compete agreement. If you're losing employees to competitors who offer better wages and better benefits, well, maybe you ought to move to Cuba or something; I hear they share a similar dislike of free-market economics in such countries.

Note that the Courts have held that, as a matter of public policy, an individual can not be barred from carrying out a trade in which he has been trained except to the extent that is necessary to protect the employer.

There's no need to give employeers further protection. All that law would do is give companies free reign to make 21st century serfs out of all Kansans, provided that a company could afford the legal fees associated with pursuing such punitive action. Way to look out for your fellow citizens.

In any event, I think it's pretty telling that the Republicans sited in the article were all pretty much for the bill. This is going to come down to the religious conservatives versus everyone else.

Tychoman 7 years, 10 months ago

Pauls can kiss her seat in the Legislature goodbye. My true opinion of her isn't suited for these message boards.

Calliope877 7 years, 10 months ago

So much for "Equal Opportunity Employment". Potter's ex-boss had no right to ask such a personal question. It's unfortunate Potter answered that stupid question at all.

LiberalDude 7 years, 10 months ago

In my opinion this Janice Pauls person should be kicked out of the Democratic party for having this view. This goes against everything that the party stands for. I think I might just have to head to Hutchinson to campaign against her.

My religious beliefs tell me to discriminate against people named Pauls.

Jamesaust 7 years, 10 months ago

I once was a third party to negotiations between a Kansas economic recruiter and an out-of-state 'high tech' company that was thinking of moving to the state. The recruiter was selling the KC area locality. The company was your proverbial 'good pay, good jobs' type.

Discussion turned to how the company would convince many employees to move to Kansas for a variety of reasons. As this was happening about the same time as the 'gay marriage' debate, one concern expressed was the perhaps Kansas was not a "welcoming environment" to "diverse" people, and referenced the 'gay marriage' issue.

The recruiter said something along the lines of: "well, of course some people might not fit in here but we've got plenty of good values people who can replace them."

I thought this was a very unfortunate statement. The company representatives though didn't say a word and appeared a little dazed. Turns out, the people who "might not fit in here" (a/k/a, gay) WERE the DECISIONMAKERS for this company, not some expendable employees that could be spit out and replaced the next day by "good values people."

Needless to say, the company did not choose Kansas.

oldgranny 7 years, 10 months ago

Its a good law and it should be passed. The only time sexual preference should be grounds for termination are when it truly interferes with the work envionment....as in work place romance gone wrong be it gay or straight or sexual harrassment or things of that nature. Other than that employers should stay out of peoples person life.

oldgranny 7 years, 10 months ago

Posted by Bowhunter99 (anonymous) on February 6, 2007 at 3:54 p.m. (Suggest removal)

I can't understand why a business owner can have the right to employ whoever he/she chooses. Kansas has an 'at will' law.

If you want to force employers to NOT fire anyone, then they should come up with a law that prevents employees from QUITTING without justification and allow the business owner to sue the employee to recover costs such as traininng, added expense to find a replacement, etc.


Oh please!!! It is obvious that you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth! Anyone who ever has had to work for a living and be dependant upon the whim of these "poor" big companies would NEVER feel that way.

Linda Endicott 7 years, 10 months ago

But those things don't have anything to do with sexual orientation, cool...only with lunkheads who don't try to control their impulses.

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