Hutchinson Gay Rights Ordinance Repealed
Expanded Ordinance to be Placed on November Ballot
September 4, 2012 - Hutchinson, KS - Efforts to repeal an incremental gay rights ordinance were successful in Hutchinson, KS today. In June, the Hutchinson City Commission approved a gay-rights ordinance granting new protections for sexual orientation in the areas of employment termination and housing eviction. At that time, the effort was correctly judged to be an initial step in the effort to create wide-ranging protections based on sexual behavior potentially impacting the religious liberties of business owners, landlords, churches and individuals.
A petition drive was launched in mid-June by the Kansas Family Policy Council and Awaken Hutchinson seeking the repeal of the new ordinance. A petition bearing 1,364 signatures was delivered to Hutchinson officials on August 16th and certified by the Reno County Elections Office on August 22nd. Only 327 signatures were required to bring the repeal effort before the City Commission.
The gay rights movement in Hutchinson subsequently launched a petition to repeal the June ordinance and at the same time sought to replace it with further expanded protections. The petition seeking expanded rights was certified in late August as well.
The City Commission today had the opportunity to vote to adopt one, both or neither petition setting up a potentially contentious set of dueling initiatives on the November ballot. The City Commission however voted 3-2 to adopt the KFPC petition effectively repealing the existing ordinance.
They also voted to place the request of the second petition seeking expanded gay rights on the November ballot.
"We applaud the Hutchinson City Commission in repealing the existing ordinance and further allowing the voters of Hutchinson to have one clear choice on the November ballot. Our petition was for an outright repeal of the ordinance. The gay rights petition/initiative was however designed to create confusion at the ballot box by both repealing one ordinance and adopting a new expanded version. City Commission action today paves the way for a clear decision by Hutchinson voters in November," stated Robert Noland Executive Director of KFPC. "Hutchinson residents saw the June ordinance for what it was, a 'first step' toward liberal new rules impacting religious liberty and traditional values - comments at the Commission meeting today confirm that suspicion. We now go to work educating Hutchinson voters about the initiative on the ballot and encourage them to oppose these changes."
Just before the vote today, Commissioner Ron Sellers, in opposing the repeal effort, further confirmed the incremental nature of plans for gay rights in Hutchinson. He stated "It (the June ordinance) was a very modest start..." and "we should give the people the right to vote on the start of an ordinance..."
A similar conversation regarding expansion of the now-repealed ordinance also occurred moments before its initial passage in June.
Hutchinson - Petition Approved
Repeal Effort Moves Forward
In June, the Hutchinson City Commission approved an ordinance granting protections based on sexual orientation. The ordinance represented a dramatic step for Hutchinson, but was less than LGBT activists initially sought. The ordinance poses a threat to landlords and employers in Hutchinson who could be subject to legal action should they evict a tenant or fire an employee who happens to be gay, lesbian or bisexual.
The ordinance establishes an environment where someone who is legitimately evicted or fired could later claim discrimination based on sexual orientation. Churches and religious institutions were not exempt from the new ordinance. Furthermore, business owners and landlords who have deeply held religious beliefs about homosexual lifestyles could be targeted for legal action in cases where eviction or employment termination occurred for perfectly legitimate reasons.
Just moments before the City Commission vote on the ordinance in June, there was talk among Commission members regarding further expansion of the ordinance. It was at that time that KFPC and Hutchinson residents realized that the ordinance was just the initial step in an ongoing agenda.
In light of its progressive nature, Awaken Hutchinson and KFPC worked throughout the summer to collect 1,364 signatures on a petition seeking to repeal the ordinance. According to Kansas law, 327 valid signatures were required to certify the petition. The petition containing in excess of 1,000 extra signatures was turned in to the Hutchinson City Clerk on August 16th. On August 21st, The Reno County Election Clerk certified that enough valid signatures were collected to move the issue forward. See the Hutchinson News story HERE.
The Kansas Equality Coalition, a statewide gay rights group, also submitted a petition seeking to repeal the new ordinance but which also proposed expanded protections. The competing petition was approved by the Election Clerk as well.
Kansas law states that once a petition is certified, the City Commission has 20 days to either approve the action requested in the petition or place the matter before the voters.
The Hutchinson City Commission is set to consider action on both petitions at their September 4th meeting.
Click HERE to read more about the history of the Hutchinson ordinance.