By Diane Silver
I just returned from a historic signing ceremony at the Kansas Statehouse. For the first time, a Kansas governor has declared that it's wrong to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people in state hiring and on the job.
With one lesbian employee of the state social service agency and one gay employee from the state's environmental agency standing at her elbow. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius signed an executive order adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state's anti-discrimination policy. The order effects the approximately 25,000 state employees who work for the governor.
"I'm sorry it took so long," Sebelius said after signing the order as she handed out ceremonial pens to us.
I've known the governor since she was a freshman member of the Kansas House. To me, she sounded quite sincere in her support for LGBT people and a bit apologetic about the time it has taken to get an anti-discrimination order in place.
Sebelius also told reporters that she supports an anti-discrimination bill in the Kansas Senate. The bill would prohibit discrimination against all LGBT people, not just those who work for the state. The bill extends protection to housing and private employment.
After Sebelius signed the order, we all applauded her heartily.
After all the garbage this state sometimes takes, I have to say that today I am so proud to be a Kansan.
Sebelius also posed with a Kansas Equality Coalition T-shirt and posed for pictures with many of the people present, who represented a who's who of the equal rights movement in Kansas.
I'll have photos as soon as they're available. Unfortunately, I didn't take my camera, but several of our folks did take pictures.
Today's executive order was the result of the hard work of many people. Among them are members of the Kansas Equality Coalition, the Kansas City regional Human Rights Campaign, the Democratic LGBT Caucus and many others.
The effort that resulted in today's order received much support and help from moderate Republicans. Republicans like Bruce Ney and Jim Yonnally helped make this order happen.
The Kansas Traditional Republican Majority also stood up for us today. The group's leader, Andy Wollen, issued a statement saying: "It's about time."
Those who attended today's ceremony include Cora Holt, a Social and Rehabilitation Services employee from Manhattan, and Dennis Dobson, a lab supervisor for the Department of Health and the Environment.
Others attending included Steve Brown, from the LGBT Democratic Caucus; Maggie Childs, chair of the Lawrence Chapter of the Kansas Equality Coalition and an advisor to KU's Q & A; Jason Dilts, Wichita, head of the LGBT Democratic Caucus; Carolyn Marie Fugit, chair of the Wichita Chapter of the Equality Coalition; Pedro Irigonegaray, Topeka attorney and longtime equality activist; Kirk Isenhour, Kansas City regional Human Rights Campaign affiliate; Cathy Jambrosic, chair of the Johnson County Chapter of the Equality Coalition; LuAnn Kahl, vice chair of the Southwest Chapter of the Equality Coalition; Bruce McKinney, a longtime Wichita activist; Bruce Ney, the former chair of Kansans For Fairness; Cyd Slayton, a member of the national board of governors of the Human Rights Campaign and of the Kansas City affiliate of HRC; Angela Siedener of the North Central Chapter of the Equality Coalition; Thomas Witt of Wichita, the state chair of the Equality Coalition; and Jim Yonnally, a former Republican state legislator and Equality Coalition lobbyist.
Sarah Kennedy from GLAAD also gave us great support today.
The Equality Coalition issued a news release on the signing. By the way, I'm the fool who put the incorrect number of state employees in the release.
AP already has a story with some comment from social conservatives. The Lawrence Journal-World also has a story posted.