Topeka Jeff Potter of Horton said everything seemed to be going well at his job as a machinist in a tool-and-die shop.
He was even being groomed to buy the business. Then, the owner asked if he was homosexual, Potter told the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Potter said he answered that he was.
Then, he said, he was fired.
That left Potter without a job and health insurance.
Because state law doesn't ban discrimination based on sexual orientation, Potter said he also was left without any legal recourse.
"Never before have I felt so alone, abandoned and vulnerable," he said.
Potter and others testified Tuesday 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 and national origin or ancestry.
The committee took no action on the measure, which is similar to an ordinance adopted in 1995 in Lawrence.
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, Brungardt 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," he 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, disagreed, saying it was wrong for people to be denied work because of their sexual orientation.
A breakdown of states' laws and policies banning discrimination because of sexual orientation:¢ Nine states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity: California, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Minnesota, New Jersey, New Mexico, Rhode Island, Washington.¢ Eight states prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation: Connecticut, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New Hampshire, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin.¢ Eight states have an executive or administrative order, or personnel regulations banning discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation: Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Virginia.¢ Two states have executive orders prohibiting discrimination against public employees based on sexual orientation and gender identity: Indiana, Pennsylvania.Source: Human Rights Campaign
"It is incredibly unfair and offends my sense of justice," he said.
Pauls also said homosexuals should not be a protected class, such as blacks, because blacks 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, chairman of the Kansas Equality Coalition, said courts have ruled that sexual orientation is unchangeable.
And, he said, although the history of discrimination against blacks is different from 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 gay 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 responsible for enforcing anti-discrimination laws, took no stand on the bill.
The commission noted that the city of Lawrence has the only ordinance in the state that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation.
Lawrence officials now are considering whether to establish a domestic partnership registry, but legislation filed last week at the Statehouse would prevent the city from doing that.