Next month, Kansas will swear in two openly LGBTQ lawmakers and Laura Kelly, Kansas' new Democratic governor, has promised to end LGBTQ discrimination in employment, LJ World reports.
While Kansas achieved a large milestone, LGBTQ activists may be disappointed that their goals could potentially very difficult to meet, even though Laura Kelly promised to break with Republican tradition.
The legislature of Kansas is still very much red, with the Kansas government being mostly Republican. It is projected that Kansas will become more conservative after the 2018 election, which will make it harder for Kelly and LGBTQ activists to reverse anti-LGBTQ policies in the state.
Tom Witt, the executive director of Equality Kansas, notes that it's not the decision of the governor whether or not hearings take place and bills get passed, which means that while Kansas elected an ally to be governor, it is not certain that Kelly was be able to accomplish all that she wants to get done. Kelly, however, is planning on issuing an executive order on the first day that she takes office that would prevent employers from discriminating against someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Kansas, though, still has a great deal of catching up to do, as the legislature has added at least six conservatives at the cost of moderate seats as well as elected a more conservative Majority leader.
Chuck Weber, executive director of the Kansas Catholic Conference (nice alliteration) said that "most Kansans understand the nature of the family,” implying that a family should have a mother and father only, and not two mothers or two fathers. Backing up Weber's comment (as much as I hate to do so), in 2005, Kansas added a ban on same-sex marriage to the state constitution. This addition was met with a 70% approval rate. However, since Obergefell v. Hodges, the ban hasn't been enforced.
In 2007,then Democratic governor Kathleen Sibelius issued an executive order that banned anti-LGBTQ discrimination in employment but in 2015, Republican governor Sam Brownback repealed it because he felt that such a decision should have been made by legislators and the conservative members of Kansas' government would have most likely not agreed to the pro-LGBTQ policy.
Brownback is no longer the governor but was replaced by conservative Jeff Colyer, who signed a measure that would allow adoption agencies to refuse sending children to a same-sex household based on religion reasons.
Additionally, just this June, Kansas' Republican Party's election platform called for an amendment to the US constitution that would bar same-sex marriage so that “judges and legislatures cannot make other arrangements equivalent to it.” Are they talking about incest and/or bestiality? Because that argument is just not a good one.
The party also expoused the idea that "The benefits and privileges of marriage exist only between one man and one woman," which we know now is objectively false.
Yes, Kansas electing openly LGBTQ people such as Laura Kelly, Sharice Davids, or State Representatives Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodard, who were elected in the Kansas City suburbs, is a step forward toward LGBTQ equality, it is not known just how widespread this progress is. But big change does not happen overnight and the best we can hope for is for Kansas to eventually turn blue.
Right now it's looking pretty in purple.
h/t: LJ World