Kansas will no longer specifically ban discrimination against gays, lesbians and the transgendered in hiring and employment in much of state government because of action announced Tuesday by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.
Brownback rescinded an executive order issued in August 2007 by then-Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius — who served as President Barack Obama’s health secretary — barring discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The order applied to hiring and employment decisions by agencies under the governor’s direct control and required them to create anti-harassment policies as well.
Brownback took the action three months after winning a tough re-election race and less than three months after the federal courts cleared the way for gay marriage in parts of the state. Brownback is a vocal defender of the state’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.
A Kansas law that prohibits discrimination in housing or private hiring and employment does not cover bias based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and such an expansion is unlikely from the Republican-dominated Legislature. Brownback said in a brief statement that Sebelius had acted “unilaterally” in issuing her order.
Brownback issued a new order, reaffirming the state’s commitment to prohibit discrimination based on race, color, ethnicity, national origin, gender or religion.
“This executive order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Brownback said. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the Legislature and not through unilateral action.”
Tom Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, the state’s leading gay-rights group, said the jobs of hundreds of gay, lesbian and transgendered workers are now at risk, after they’ve spent nearly a decade believing they were safe on the job after disclosing their orientation or gender identity.
“It’s an outrage — an absolute outrage,” Witt said. “I can conceive of no justifiable reason for doing this.”
Source: The AP