Well, I knew it would happen eventually; Kansas is slipping into the depths of hell. You’re skeptical? Listen to this: the Topeka City Council is considering an anti-discrimination ordinance that would include sexual orientation and gender identity. Yeah, that Topeka, home of the Westboro Baptist Church. Whoa.
The ordinance was proposed by Chad Manspeaker in June, but the city council will formally consider the proposal next week. The ordinance, if adopted, would expand the Topeka Human Rights Commission to include protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered individuals.
Topeka isn’t the first city in Kansas to consider such an ordinance. A few years ago Manhattan, KS, considered something similar. The non-discrimination ordinance actually passed the city commission, but was repealed only a few months later. The cities Salina and Hutchinson also had non-discrimination ordinances until they were both repealed last year. Lawrence, KS, is the only city in the state to include gender identity in its non-discrimination ordinance.
As someone raised in Kansas, I can’t say that I’m entirely unsurprised. (I’m a little surprised, but I’ll get to that in a minute.) Kansas gets a bad rap for being ridiculously conservative, but it’s by no means a monolith, and it would be a mistake to assume so. There is texture and nuance that become apparent once you’ve spent a little time with the people here.
That said, when it comes to the law, it’s not great to be gay or trans in Kansas. We don’t allow same-sex marriages (a law and a state constitutional amendment). We don’t allow trans people to alter their birth certificates. (As an aside, this can actually lead to some absurd results for a state hell-bent on keeping gay people from marrying. The sex you are at birth is the sex you are forever, so if you’re a trans woman, you can marry a woman because you’ll always be male in the eyes of the state). The state legislature couldn’t even muster the strength to repeal the anti-sodomy law that is still on the books when they had the perfect opportunity to do so.
This is why I find the proposed ordinance to be a bit surprising. There doesn’t seem to be a political cost to being anti-gay, nor does there seem to be much to gain from promoting LGBT rights. This is also why I find the proposed changes so encouraging. The Human Rights Commission voted 7-0 in favor of the proposal back in June. Now it has to pass the city council. It won’t fix everything wrong in the state for LGBT people, but I’m hopeful that this will be a step toward a more inclusive and progressive state.