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The Rundown – City Commission discusses non-discrimination ordinance

Post Date:03/11/2020 10:41 AM

The Rundown is prepared by the City of Newton Public Information Office to summarize the City Commission meeting and does not represent official Commission minutes.

7 p.m. March 10, 2020, Newton City Commission meeting

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the City Commission began discussion of a local ordinance to protect against discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identification in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

Local LGBTQ advocates in January had requested the City Commission consider such an ordinance. On Tuesday, City Attorney Chris Towle presented three options for the Commission to discuss:

  • A non-discrimination ordinance that would include a process to receive complaints, conduct investigations and provide a penalty for violations.
  • A policy resolution that would state the City’s policy against discrimination and memorialize support of state and federal legislation that promotes equality. A policy resolution would not include the enforcement provisions of an ordinance.
  • Tabling the matter until after upcoming decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court and State Legislature on the matter.

Both state and federal law provide for certain protections against discrimination on the basis of age, race, religion, color, sex, national origin, ancestry, disability, military status, genetic information and marital familial status, but do not prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identification. Seventeen other cities in Kansas have adopted non-discrimination ordinances, mostly in the northeastern corner of the state.

There are three cases currently before the U.S. Supreme Court that address the issue. In two of the cases, the Court will consider whether the prohibition against discrimination “because of … sex” also encompasses sexual orientation. In the third case, the Court will consider whether discrimination against transgender employees is prohibited based on either their status as transgender or under sex stereotyping.

Kansas House Bill 2130 would amend the Kansas Act Against Discrimination to specifically include gender identification and sexual orientation. However, it appears unlikely that it will be adopted this session. Still, depending upon the outcome of these Supreme Court decisions or State legislation, the necessity of implementing a local non-discrimination ordinance could be eliminated.

Commissioners heard more than two hours of public comment Tuesday night, both in support and opposition to the proposed ordinance. The Commission took no action but agreed to continue discussing the issue at a future meeting.

Community recognition

The Commission honored Ericia Stevens, owner of Bella Veil Bridal Boutique, for receiving the Best of Weddings award from The Knot. The award from the national wedding planning website is based on receiving outstanding reviews left by actual brides.

In other action, the City Commission:

  1. Approved the use of golf carts on city streets within Sand Creek Station housing development. The carts may not be operated on any street with a speed limit greater than 30 mph, may not be operated during nighttime hours unless equipped with lights and reflectors, and must be registered with the City.
  2. Approved a lease extension with the Raw Group for the park maintenance building at 225 S. Meridian. The City negotiated permission to install new gas heaters and to remove them at the expiration of the lease. The lease rate is $3,000 per month through 2022, with options to extend through 2024 with an increase to $3,100 per month in 2023 and to $3,200 in 2024.
  3. Approved an agreement with the State Historic Preservation Office to be a Certified Local Government and recreated the Historic Preservation Commission. Jerry Wall, Libby Albers, Daryl Unruh, and David Haury were appointed.
  4. Approved a request to close Athletic Park Circle on June 20 for the Cookie Daze 5K.
  5. Received the annual report from Newton Public Library.

For more information, please contact Director of Communications Erin McDaniel at 284-6055 or emcdaniel@newtonkansas.com.