Action on Wichita non-discrimination ordinance delayed

by | July 16, 2021

Wichita Flag

This last Tuesday, July 13, the Wichita City Council voted 5 to 2 to delay, for 90 days, final action on a fully inclusive non‑discrimination ordinance.  This follows a 4 to 3 vote in favor of an earlier ordinance version on June 15, and another 4 to 3 vote in favor of the current version on July 6.

While Equality Kansas is certainly disappointed by the delay, we look forward to working with all Wichita City Council members on an ordinance that protects LGBTQ Wichitans from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.  We will continue to be available to answer questions about the provisions of the draft ordinance.  We will continue to provide input on any proposed changes to the current draft. Most importantly, we will continue to stand opposed to any attempt to weaken protections for our community.

There has been quite a bit of discussion among city councilors, advocates, opponents, and the general public about the process by which this matter was brought before the City Council earlier last month.  We agree the initial rollout should have been handled differently.  The initial draft, which lacked input from LGBTQ advocates and other stakeholders, was made public just a handful of days before the City Council was expected to vote on it.

Equality Kansas strongly objected to the initial draft, as it lacked enforcement provisions and included specific language that banned local enforcement.  We immediately went to work with attorneys from the Human Rights Campaign, drafting a pair of alternative ordinance proposals, one of which was approved on “first reading” at the June 15 City Council meeting.

All Wichita ordinances must have a “second reading” before they become law; the second reading for the June 15 version was set for July 6.  At the July 6 meeting, however, an entirely new version of the ordinance was introduced for a new first reading.  Based largely on non-discrimination ordinances passed since 2014 in the Johnson County cities of Roeland Park, Prairie Village, Overland Park and others, the new draft was approved 4 to 3 after five hours of contentious public comment and nearly another hour of sometimes heated debate among City Council members.

A second reading for the July 6 version was set for July 13.  After three more hours of public comment and yet more debate by the City Council, final action on a new second reading was put off again, this time til October 12.  Council members supporting the additional delay want more time to study the issue, and to clarify portions of the ordinance that were questioned and/or criticized by members of the public.

Equality Kansas believes the current draft is acceptable, and we are extremely disappointed it was not approved.  However, we agree with the majority of the City Council that the process of introducing the ordinance was flawed.  With that said, we accept the council majority’s vote for an additional 90 days.

Wichita non-discrimination ordinance 7-13-2021
Wichita non-discrimination ordinance 7-13-2021

Share This