New resistance to Roeland Park anti-discrimination proposal

ROELAND PARK, Kan. - An ordinance to protect the gay, lesbian and transgender community is on thin ice in Roeland Park as council members continue to push back a vote on anti-discrimination laws.

Gay, lesbian and transgender residents can be fired or denied services in any of the Roeland Park businesses just because their sexual orientation.  But there is a growing fear that protecting the LGBT community may infringe upon the freedom of other residents

“There is always someone that the country seems to be a little bit intolerant of and right now, sexual orientation and gender identity seem to be the top issue that we’re trying to reduce the intolerance of," City Councilwoman Jennifer Gunby said.

For the last few months, Gunby has been fighting for an ordinance to protect gay, lesbian and transgender residents in the city

"You can be fired for doing a great job merely because of your sexual orientation," Gunby said.

But recently, this ordinance has received some resistance. This week, council members pushed back a vote on the ordinance for the third time because of some concerns.

"Religious liberty is a very strong part of this country and it should be respected," Councilman Marek Gliniecki said.

Without notifying the full council or the public, several council members invited a special guest who challenged the ordinance.

"We have a loving, diverse community, but people ought to and they do have the constitutional right to be free from government coercion in this regard," attorney Dale Schowengerdt said.

Schowengerdt is an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, a prominent Christian group of lawyers who advocate for religious freedom and the so-called protection of marriage.

"To bring in an outside lawyer who represents a very intolerant organization to give legal advice to the council is not an appropriate action," Gunby said.

But this legal advice has made council members question the strength of the ordinance.

"I don't know if we'll be able to get there, that is satisfactory to the majority of the people in Roleand Park," Gliniecki said.

And it’s brought a controversial conversation to the forefront of this community.

"Religious freedom is not the right to deny service to someone you don't agree with and it doesn't give you the right to discriminate exactly the way you were born," Gunby said.

The council is now expected to vote on this ordinance in June.

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