Archive for Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Linenberger: Brownback’s decision on LGBT protections should trigger public action

Democrats and other Brownback critics contend that the state's ongoing budget problems prove that his economic policies have failed.

Democrats and other Brownback critics contend that the state's ongoing budget problems prove that his economic policies have failed.

February 17, 2015

Gov. Sam Brownback rescinded nine executive orders last week that Govs. Kathleen Sebelius and Mark Parkinson originally signed.

The one causing the largest stir is one that now ends legal protection against discrimination for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered workers in state government.

Brownback says legal protection for these particular employees creates a protected class and that such a measure should come from the Legislature and not what he called a “unilateral” move when Sebelius signed the order eight years ago.

But why now?

Brownback narrowly won re-election last November, but he won — a second time. With no more campaigns in sight for him, unless he’s gearing up for another presidential run, it doesn’t seem like a political move.

Or maybe that’s the thinking in this measure now.

Proposed legislation last year would have allowed an individual, group or private business to refuse service to a gay couple if it didn’t align with their religious beliefs.

Public outcry against it, however, seemed to leave some legislators to rethink the measure and the effort eventually fizzled.

Sure, Brownback’s latest move won’t have an affect on all state employees.

Leadership at Kansas University and Kansas State University, for instance, has issued statements reminding folks that it’s business as usual at their institutions will continue their anti-discrimination policies that include LGBT employees.

The governor’s move certainly came with a reaction.

Folks on social media, both gay and straight, were posting photos of themselves donning purple attire and using the hashtag #UnFreeState. Purple is a color worn in support of the LGBT community.

And if you’ve missed “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” clip, Stewart, like anyone outside the Sunflower State, went to the Wizard of Oz well once again, but it was creative, noting “there’s no place like homophobia.”

No matter one’s personal beliefs, attitudes in Kansas and across the nation have continued to change.

All might not be on board for gay couples marrying, but a general attitude of acceptance and compassion continues to grow.

The governor’s decision doesn’t mean state employees who happen to be in the LGBT community will automatically be let go by their peers simply for identifying as such.

But if you were in that person’s shoes, would you be OK with the possibility?

If one views this as nothing more than symbolic, that it won’t be an issue, I would disagree.

Kansas City, Mo., Mayor Sly James took to social media to tell the LGBT community it was welcome on his side of the state line.

Will folks start heading east?

Not necessarily, but at a time when Brownback could use some good news in the economy department, such departures wouldn’t exactly constitute a red letter day.

On Valentine’s Day, people took to the Statehouse steps to rally against Brownback’s decision. People, both gay and straight, joined together in opposition to the governor’s move.

Again, this happened on Valentine’s Day, a day that — sweetheart dates or no sweetheart dates — should be about plain and simple love for others.

The governor said he wants any change to the anti-discrimination policies to come from the Legislature.

Here’s where you come in.

Tell your representatives where you stand on the issue. When call after call comes into a legislator’s office, it’s difficult for a representative not to take notice.

And if you think the governor made the right move, be sure to make your representative aware.

But remember this: Your opinions could be affecting a friend, a son, a daughter, an aunt or an uncle.

You, unfortunately, just don’t know it yet.

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