Sexual orientation measure put on hold

Thomas Witt, representing the Kansas Equality Coalition, and state Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, greet each other before Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee vote on legislation that would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill was approved 5-3. Francisco was a strong supporter for the measure.

? A key legislator has signaled that a bill prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation may not be considered by the full Senate this session.

And according to Thomas Witt, a lobbyist for the Kansas Equality Coalition, which has been pushing for the bill, that’s OK.

“We would always welcome debate, but if it doesn’t happen this year, it will be alive next year,” Witt said. “We’re taking the long view.”

Witt’s comments came after Senate Majority Leader Derek Schmidt, R-Independence, was asked whether he would bring up before the full Senate the bill, which had been approved last week by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee.

Schmidt said he didn’t know and that he wanted to speak with the committee chairman, Sen. Pete Brungardt, R-Salina, about it. “I’d just like to understand why a majority on the committee thought it needed to be debated this year,” Schmidt said.

The legislation would prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It would amend the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, which protects Kansans from discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, disability, familiar status, national origin or ancestry.

The Federal and State Affairs Committee recommended approval of the bill on a 5-3 vote.

Twenty-six states offer some level of protection against discrimination based on sexual orientation, the KEC said.

Witt said the committee vote was “a big step in the right direction.” But, he added, it may take a little longer to get a majority in the Legislature to agree to the bill.