A few days ago, I came across this article in the Lawrence Journal World: Outside Lawrence, discrimination based on sexual orientation is already legal in Kansas. The title pretty much sums it up. While House Bill 2453, another of Kansas’s nearly annual “religious freedom” bills, sputters in the Statehouse, this article points out that it’s already perfectly legal to discriminate against LGBT people in most of Kansas, except for Lawrence. Sexual orientation isn’t a protected class in the Kansas Act Against Discrimination, and in the absence of an explicit law, gays and lesbians have no legal recourse if they are refused service or fired for their sexual orientation. Lawrence adopted a non-discrimination policy in the early 90’s, the first city in Kansas to do so, and the only city where the policy is both widespread and enforceable.
Despite the dismal picture for LGBT rights in Kansas, it’s heartening to see many of my clients go beyond current state culture and establish non-discrimination policies themselves. One of the fundamental tenets of a healthy workplace is that employees feel safe and respected. Without that, communication breaks down and productivity and creativity become impossible. It seems obvious that protecting diversity is good for everyone, but if Kansas public policy is any indicator, it must not be obvious enough. More and more employers are creating policies that protect LGBT employees because it’s good business practice. Maybe someday the positive results will “trickle up” to the state legislature.