Topeka A Senate committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but the legislation’s prospects of going further was up in the air.
“I have no idea,” state Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, and chair of the Federal and State Affairs Committee, said when asked if the measure would be considered by the full Senate. That decision will be made by Senate leaders.
The committee approved the bill, 5-3. Voting for it were Sens. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, Roger Reitz, R-Manhattan, Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, Tim Owens, R-Overland Park, and Brungardt. Voting against the bill were Sens. Dennis Pyle, R-Hiawatha, Ralph Ostemeyer, R-Grinnell, and Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City.
The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Kansas Act Against Discrimination. That act prohibits discrimination in public accommodations, employment and housing based on race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin or ancestry.
Members of the Kansas Equality Coalition, which has advocated for the legislation for several years, were pleased with the vote.
“Kansans should not have to live in fear that they might lose a job because of prejudice,” said Maggie Childs of Lawrence, chair of the KEC. “This bill is sorely needed by a small but vulnerable population,” she said.
Francisco noted that the legislation protects homosexuals and heterosexuals from discrimination because it addresses sexual orientation.
But Judy Smith, state director of Concerned Women for America, said she was disappointed in the vote and would continue to work against the bill.
“If we start establishing laws protecting so-called discrimination against inclinations, where does it stop?” Smith said.
She said she believes that homosexuality is a chosen behavior and that civil rights protections should be reserved for people with unchangeable characteristics, such as race, and those who are politically powerless and suffer economic deprivations.
“Homosexuals can’t prove that they are suffering those things,” she said.