Archived: Kan. Governor Strips LGBT Protections

By Julissa Catalan

Alabama is fighting tooth and nail to deny LGBT rights, and now Kansas is taking a step backward as well.

Republican governor Sam Brownback has issued an executive order cancelling a 2007 order by then-Governor Kathleen Sebelius that protected members of the LGBT community from being fired or discriminated against in the workplace for their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Sebelius resigned as governor in 2009 to become the Secretary of Health and Human Services, a position she resigned from last year after overseeing the error-ridden rollout of the Affordable Care Act.

Brownback says his order “ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did.”

“Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action,” he said while somehow trying to pass off his order as a victory for diversity. “The order also reaffirms our commitment to hiring, mentoring and recognizing veterans and individuals with disabilities.”

The move has sparked anger and fear amongst LGBT advocates.

“This action by the governor is an outrage.Gay, lesbian and transgender state employees across Kansas have trusted they would be safe from discrimination and harassment in their workplace but Sam Brownback has, by erasing their job protections, declared ‘open season’ on every one of them,” Thomas Witt, Executive Director of Equality Kansas, said in a statement. “If you work for the state, and have felt comfortable being ‘out’ at work knowing you had protection from bigotry, that protection is gone.

“If you work for the state, your measure of job performance is no longer the quality of your work, but rather who you love and go home to at the end of the day.”

This is one of nine orders repealed by Brownback, including one that created a commission to address low graduation rates and help prevent students from dropping out. The Commission on Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery was initiated by Governor Mark Parkinson, Sebelius’ lieutenant governor and successor after her resignation.

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