Monday, January 22, 2007

Senate committee introduces bill to protect Kansans against discrimination based on sexual orientation

By Diane Silver

I'm catching up on a few news items that have slipped through the cracks while I was busy elsewhere.

First up is the good news that the Kansas Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee has voted to introduce a bill banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in Kansas. The committee vote was by voice and unanimous.

"This is a proud day for all of you who have worked hard to build the Kansas Equality Coalition from the disaster of the marriage amendment," Tom Witt, chair of the Equality Coalition, said in an e-mail to coalition members and supporters. "Not quite two years ago, we were dispirited and angry, seemingly unable to come together for our common good. With your efforts, we have all found our way to unity and purpose, and to a positive struggle for equal rights.

"The work is not done. In fact, we have barely started. While getting our bill introduced is a great accomplishment, our ultimate goal is to get it all the way through the legislative process to the Governor's desk, where our hope is it will be signed into law. To make this a reality, it will take the work of all of us pulling together to press for passage. Every Kansas Equality Coalition member can do her or his part."

Tom suggests that the best way to help are to donate to the coalition's lobby fund and to talk to your state senator or representative. Jim Yonally, former 14th District representative, is working as the coalition's full-time lobbyist at the Statehouse.

If you don't know who your state representatives and senators are, contact Tom with your address by writing to him at You can also search the Kansas Legislature's web site.

The bill defines "sexual orientation as 'male or female heterosexuality, homosexuality, or bisexuality by inclination, practice or expression; or having a self-image or identity not traditionally associated with one’s gender.'"

Next up for the measure is a trip to the Legislative Revisor's office where it will be drafted into formal language. After that committee hearings are expected. Approval by the committee would send the bill to the full Senate and then, if approved, over to the state House of Representatives.

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