Prairie Village council delays decision on proposal that would protect LGBTQ community

PRAIRIE VILLAGE, Kan. – Members of the Prairie City Council need more time before voting on a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance.

Monday evening, during a scheduled council meeting that lasted close to 3 hours, the council voted 9-3 to consider the ordinance and possible adoption at its Nov. 19 meeting. It will allow staff to bring in any revisions to the ordinance and allow for more legal review.

The nondiscrimination ordinance, introduced by Councilmen Trucker Poling and Chad Herring, would make it illegal to refuse someone a job, housing or services based on their sexual orientation.

Kansas does not have any laws at the state level offering such protections to the LGBTQ community, so it’s left up to cities.

The ordinance would apply to the city, businesses that employ more than four workers and landlords who lease four or more units. However, there are exceptions for religious organizations.

It’s modeled after similar measures that were passed in Manhattan and Roeland Park. Megan England served on the Roeland Park City Council when the city passed its ordinance in 2014.

“Everybody on the council wanted to make sure that the mechanism that we created was fair and that it didn’t overly side for the accuser and overly side for the accused,” England said.

She urged the Prairie Village City Council to pass the ordinance because “it’s good for business and community.”

“You have the nickname of Perfect Village, and there’s a lot of truth to that, so please help maintain that image we have of you,” England said.

She was among 26 speakers who voiced their support and opposition to the ordinance during public comments.

“What makes you more deserving to not be discriminated, but not us when we’ve been through so much hardship already?" a Shawnee Mission East student asked the council.

“I think that we’re going to see discrimination of a different kind if the council goes this way,” said Barbara Carpenter, a Prairie Village resident. “Florists and photographers, they have a right to live by their conscious and not be forced to do something they feel and they know is wrong. “

Several diverse groups and citizens have expressed their support the ordinance, including the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce and at least six churches in the city.

Council members Ted Odell, Serena Schermoly and Andrew Wang all voted against Monday night’s decision.

Twenty-one states already have laws that prevent discrimination against LGBTQ people; there are more than 200 cities nationwide, including Kansas City, Missouri, that have similar protections.