Roeland Park council members don't pass non-discrimination ordinance

ROELAND PARK, Kan. - Roeland Park council members didn't pass the controversial nondiscrimination ordinance that would protect people based on sexual identity and gender.

Out of eight city council members, only three voted in favor of the ordinance and four voted against it. One council member, Becky Fast, was absent.

The Mayor said council woman Fast got in a car accident and could not attend the meeting. If she would have voted in favor, the Mayor would have voted to break the tie.

Nearly 200 people packed a community room at the Roeland Park Community Center. Council members have debated the language of the ordinance since February and agreed on a final version.

"What this ordinance would do is if a resident, a shopper, an employee here in Roeland Park is discriminated against based on their sexual orientation, gender identity or military status, they would have an avenue to report that discrimination and seek remediation through the courts if necessary," said Roeland Park Council member Jennifer Gunby.

The ordinance would’ve excluded churches, school districts and non- profits. And despite the agreement from the council on the language, it didn’t pass.

Those who were in favor wore blue to Monday’s meeting. Roeland Park mother and resident Elizabeth Anderson has lived in Roeland Park for 22 years and had not spoken about being a lesbian until discussion started brewing about the proposed ordinance.

“I’m a full citizen, and I deserve equal rights. I shouldn’t have to worry about whether I can be fired or get full service at a store,” she said.

Kansas resident Una Nowling is a transsexual woman and hoped others like her could live openly in Roeland Park.

"This ordinance is not going to change the world, but it will give hope to those who want to come out and say, ‘Yes, this is who I am. Yes, I want to come out and live and love in this society and just be an average American and not risk losing my job,’” Nowling said.

Those who were against it said the city didn’t need an ordinance if there were no known current problems with discrimination.

“I just don’t think this city needs it,” said Susan Hunt, who attended the meeting. “I just think it will be a disaster for the city.”

"I think it’s good news that they're not going to have more rights than the average person,” said Doug Long. “I don't think they should be discriminated against, but I don't think they should have more rights either."

Several council members described that they were constantly harassed by people prior to Monday’s vote.

"As I said, I've taken into consideration the effect that this will have on people of our city,” said Gliniecki who voted against the ordinance. “I deeply regret the negative impact as a possible outcome of my vote."

Jennifer Gunby and Megan England worked to put the ordinance together. It is not clear at this point if they will propose the it again for a vote.

Here's how the council members voted:

Becky Fast (Absent) 

Sheri McNeil (No) 

Jennifer Gunby (Yes) 

Michael Rhodes (No) 

Megan England (Yes) 

Mel Croston (No) 

Marek Gliniecki (No) 

Teresa Kelly (Yes) 

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