By John Celock
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) has signed an executive order repealing a policy establishing sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of state employees.
Brownback signed the executive order Tuesday afternoon saying that he believes the protected classes should be established through legislation and not executive order. Sexual orientation and gender identity became protected classes within the state workforce under an executive order signed by former Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (D).
“This executive order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did,” Brownback said in a statement. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action. The order also reaffirms our commitment to hiring, mentoring and recognizing veterans and individuals with disabilities.”
State Rep. John Carmichael (D-Wichita) immediately responded to Brownback’s order, introducing legislation into the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday afternoon seeking to establish sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of state employees.
State Rep. John Wilson (D-Lawrence), the House Democratic policy chairman, told The Celock Report that the order is harmful to Kansans and that he believes that Brownback is trying to distract from other issues in the state.
“This is yet another disappointing decision by Sam Brownback. His decision is not just hurtful to LGBTQ Kansans, but their friends and family,” Wilson said. “It would also appear that he wants to divert attention from his irresponsible management of the state and focus on divisive and discriminatory social issues.”
Tom Witt, the executive director of the Kansas Equality Coalition, described Brownback’s action as an “outrage.”
“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,” Witt said in a statement.
Witt said that gay state employees will no longer be able to be open about their sexuality in the workplace and that they will not be judged on job performance. He called it a “sad day” for the state.
“It is a sad day for Kansas – not just for the LGBT community, but for our friends, our families, and our co-workers whose jobs are now at risk,” Witt said.
Kansas was one of seven states to have an executive order establishing sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of state employees. The rules remain in effect in Michigan, Indiana, Kentucky, Virginia, Pennsylvania and New York. In addition, Missouri, Ohio, Montana, Arizona and Alaska establish sexual orientation as a protected class via executive order. Other states establishing the protected class do so via legislation covering private employment as well.