TOPEKA, Kan. — The city council in Topeka, Kan., has scheduled a vote on an anti-discrimination proposal that would amend responsibility of the city’s Human Relations Commission to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.”
Council member Chad Manspeaker, who proposed the ordinance, said the measure was previously approved by the city’s Human Relations Commission in June in a 7-0 vote, but must now be adopted by the city council.
The measure would expand the role of the Commission, which focuses on educating the public to aid in preventing discrimination in the areas of race, religion, creed, color, sex, disability, national origin or age.
Manspeaker told LGBTQ Nation that expanding the Commission’s charter is a necessary first step in efforts to establishing legal protections for the Tokepa’s LGBT residents.
“It’s baby steps towards ensuring that gay and lesbian and transgender folk are not discriminated against,” he said. “We want people to live freely in our community and we can’t do that without these protections.”
Manspeaker said Topeka “has a national reputation for being the home of groups who spread a message of hate,” referring to the Westboro Baptist Church, home of anti-gay extremists and the “Gods Hate Fags” fundamentalist movement, which is located in his district.
“This ordinance will do nothing to limit that speech. It will not affect businesses or religious practices,” he said. “It will however acknowledge that people are being ostracized, denied work, and receiving threats of violence, and even death for simply being who they are.”
Currently, Lawrence is the only city to have an anti-discrimination ordinance that includes sexual orientation and gender identity. The cities of Salina and Hutchinson had similar anti-discrimination ordinances, however, both were repealed in 2012.
The Topeka city council will vote on Manspeaker’s proposal on Sept. 17.