Our Mission is to
End Discrimination Based on
Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
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The Kansas Equality Coalition is a unified statewide group of fair-minded people who are determined to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. We seek to ensure the dignity, safety and legal equality of all Kansans.
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About Our Members
The Equality Coalition currently has chapters in KC Metro, Hutchinson, Northwest Kansas, Lawrence/Douglas County, Riley/Geary Counties, North Central Kansas, Southeast Kansas, Southwest Kansas, Topeka, Central Plains, and Wichita/Sedgwick County.
Our current membership stands at nearly 2000 Kansans from all walks of life.
Ballot Measures in Hutch, Salina Fail
In the spring of 2011, Kansas Equality Coalition members from around the state met to discuss how we could continue to take the issue of non-discrimination to our local communities. Mindful of the recent loss in Manhattan and the legislative efforts to undo our gains, it was understood by all present that the chances of victory were small. No one, however, looked at the unlikelihood of success as a reason not to try.
Members discussed the stalled progress in Lawrence, where local chapter members had for the previous several years been working with the Lawrence Human Relations Commission on obtaining a favorable ruling on adding “gender identity” to their local ordinance. In Wichita, there was a long-standing desire to restore that city's civil rights ordinance, which, in 1977, included “sexual preference” until repealed in 1978 as part of Anita Bryant's anti-gay crusade. In 1999, the Wichita City Council quietly repealed the rest of the ordinance.
There were several cities that were considered for making a renewed case for equality. Lawrence, already inclusive of sexual orientation protections, was clearly at the top of the list for positive change. In September of 2011, the chapter took their request to add gender identity directly to the city commission, where they won on a 4 to 1 vote.
In November, the Hutch chapter made a public request for inclusion to their city council, which referred it to their local human rights commission for a series of public hearings. In Salina, members followed the same path, working with city commission and human rights commissioners to bring their issue to a vote in mid May of 2012.
At every step of the way the opposition, lead by Robert Noland of the Wichita-based Kansas Family Policy Council, publicly opposed our efforts. They made the wild and offensive claims their playbook has been using for years – that we were a danger to children, that men would rape children in bathrooms, that we are out to destroy the American family, and even that we are nothing more than HIV/AIDS carriers.
In the beginning, Noland's fear and smear tactics did not work. The City of Salina passed a fully-inclusive ordinance at the end of May, adding employment, housing, and public accommodations protections based on both sexual orientation and gender identity. In the City of Hutchinson, however, chapter leadership made a last-minute compromise which severely watered down their local ordinance: only sexual orientation was included, and that for firings and evictions only. Gender identity was dropped as the only means to convince the swing-vote on the city council, Bob Bush, to agree.
Immediately after passage, Noland began his drive to repeal both ordinances. Under Kansas state law, city residents may, with enough valid signatures, petition their local governments for passage or repeal of specific ordinances. Petitions were submitted to both cities in early August. By law, the cities had two choices: repeal the non-discrimination ordinances, or submit the repeal question to the voters.
In Salina, the city commission stood its ground: there would be no repeal, and instead, the question would be on the November ballot.
With the mid-August deadline quickly approaching, the Hutchinson chapter decided to present a petition of their own: fully include sexual orientation in the city's local non-discrimination ordinance for protections in housing, employment, and public accommodations. As with the original ordinance passed in June, however, the Hutchinson chapter's leadership chose to leave “gender identity” out of their new proposal. Both KEC's and Robert Noland's petitions were presented to the Hutchinson City Commission in early September. The hope among Hutchinson leadership was that both ballot measures would be sent to the voters, setting up a situation where one measure would repeal the existing ordinance, and where the other would enact a new ordinance with expanded protections, albeit excluding gender identity. Unfortunately, the swing-voter on the Hutchinson city council sided with the repeal proponents, voting to repeal the June ordinance and to send the KEC version to the voters.
With the actions of the two city councils, there were now two simultaneous campaigns in progress: In Hutchinson, the message was to vote “yes” to pass a mostly-inclusive ordinance, while in Salina, the message was to vote “no” against legalizing discrimination.
The messaging strategies of the two chapters was very different. In Hutchinson, newspaper and television ads attempted to challenge the misinformation being spread by Robert Noland's campaign, specifically highlighting the facts that the ordinance would not legalize gay marriage, and that “transgenders aren't included.” One example of a Hutchinson chapter TV ad can be seen at http://youtu.be/UdIpkT1Clqw. Their messaging strategy, developed by Catalyst Creative Services, a Hutchinson public relations firm, also focused on a “yes” vote being one for fairness. There was a heavy emphasis on social media and pictures of individuals holding placards with statements about why they were voting “yes.”
In Salina, the focus was on not legalizing discrimination – remember, the ordinance banning LGBT discrimination had been in effect since late May, and repealing it would legalize a currently banned practice. One of Salina's TV ads can be seen at http://youtu.be/S4NxjQWZOcs. Developed largely in-house, the Salina campaign stayed largely on the message that non-discrimination and diversity are good for the local economy. Local businesses with inclusive policies were highlighted in mailers and newspaper inserts, and were discussed with voters by volunteers. A highlight of the Salina campaign was the a door-to-door canvass that, in two short months, tallied nearly 7000 door-knocks and over 2000 voter contacts.
Ultimately, both efforts were lost. The Salina ordinance was repealed on a 54% to 46% vote (9079 to 7686 in favor of repeal), and the Hutchinson ordinance failed to pass on a 58% to 41% vote (8110 to 5783 against passage).
Moving forward, we are exploring our legal options. We will also be conducting a full review of the project, from conception to proposals to campaigns. What worked? What failed? Did the Hutchinson chapter's decision to emphasize the exclusion of gender identity play a role in the greater margin of loss than in Salina?
This fight is not over. It has only just begun.