Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Kansas Legislature gets ready to adjourn with mixed results for lesbians & gays

By Diane Silver

[updated 3:21 p.m.]
The Legislature has adjourned.

The Kansas House and Senate are expected to finalize the budget this afternoon and then pack it in for the year. Except in the unlikely event of a special session, the part-time Legislature won't be back to take another vote until January 2008.

That's both good news and bad news for Kansas' lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered citizens. This year was a mixed bag when it came to fair laws.

We won a victory in gaining passage of a bill requiring school districts to institute an anti-bullying law.
“School should be safe for all students,” Thomas Witt, chair of the Kansas Equality Coalition, said in a statement when the bill passed.** “Too often bullying makes school a nightmare for lesbian and gay students. That’s why this bill is so important to us. This is a good first step toward ending the harassment faced today by far too many kids – both straight and gay.”

We were also able to keep a proposed ban on domestic partner registries from moving forward. The ban passed out of a House committee, but never won the support it needed for a vote by the full House, which is the more conservative of the Legislature's two chambers.

However, we failed once again to get a bill providing anti-discrimination protection out of a Senate committee. We got a hearing on the measure, which would have added sexual orientation to the state's anti-discrimination statutes. We just couldn't get the votes to move the bill to the Senate floor.

That's frustrating, but it's not surprising. Any civil rights law tends to take time.

I do have to admit that I want to scream periodically. I'm not certain what's so frightening or wrong, for that matter, about a law that says, for example, that people, whether they are straight or gay, can't be kept from making a living because of their sexual orientation. Why should I be denied a job because of who I am?

And so it goes...

The solution to these problems, of course, is to realize that passing legislation takes time, it takes lobbying and the political strength to put supportive lawmakers into office. That's why the Kansas Equality Coalition exists.
** In the interest of transparency, I work with the Equality Coalition, and I wrote that press release about the anti-bully bill.

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