Members of the Lawrence community voiced their opinions even before the 7 p.m. start of a meeting Wednesday to discuss a possible amendment to the city’s anti-discrimination policy.
Residents Charles McVey and Dominic Klumpe sat outside Christ Covenant Reformed Presbyterian Church, 2312 Harvard Road. Each held a sign in protest of a group of Lawrence business leaders and churches who say they are opposed to the suggested inclusion of gender identity.
“I don’t want these kinds of attitudes being expressed in my community or prevailing in my community,” McVey said. “They’re free to their own opinions, but if they’re going to start messing with the law, well, that’s everybody’s business then.”
The conversation continued inside the church, where members representing groups comprising Voice of Reason addressed the more than 50 residents in attendance. Groups included Awaken Manhattan, the Alliance Defense Fund, Concerned Women for America and Kansas Family Policy Council. Several of the groups also opposed the anti-discrimination ordinance, which is now in place in Manhattan.
The Manhattan ordinance protects people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender in housing, public accommodations and employment. Lawrence’s ordinance currently includes sexual orientation but not gender identity.
Daniel Blomberg, who represented the ADF, fielded the majority of the questions asked by concerned and interested residents. He said if gender identity were to pass in Lawrence, several privacy issues could come into play.
“My focus is constitutional law and religious liberty,” Blomberg said. “At the end of the day, sometimes religious liberty is bad for business, it is, and it’s still the right thing to do.”
The meeting lasted more than two hours and closed with a question-and-answer session, which brought some in attendance to shouting. Passionate messages were delivered by people on both sides of the issue.
Katherine Pryor, who serves on a task force dealing with local LGBT issues, said she entered the meeting with an open mind.
“I came here thinking I would get angry from their point of view. My point was to learn the other side,” Pryor said. “I would love to see us have a session where everyone comes together. I’d like to keep talking about it.”
Greg Cromer, who helped organize Wednesday’s event, said the turnout and people’s willingness to discuss the issue was a positive step.
“In the end, there’s probably going to have to be some kind of compromise,” Cromer said. “We’re all human beings. There’s differences in world views. People are different, so we have to respect that. Both sides have to respect that.”