Bill promotes discrimination

Last week, the Kansas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 142. This bill will promote discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Kansans. Currently, there are only a few places in Kansas where an LGBT person is protected from being fired from their job, and refused housing or employment based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. SB142 states that any person who feels like their free exercise of religion is "likely" to be burdened can sue for an injunction, protective orders, damages, and court and attorney fees. It then specifies that local statutes that go beyond the list in the state non-discrimination statute will not be protected from lawsuits. Therefore, any city, university or college with protections for LGBT people now faces possible litigation from Westboro Baptist Church or similar religious hate groups. This includes the City of Lawrence, all the Kansas Board of Regents universities and most community colleges across Kansas because they have added sexual orientation and gender identity to their list of protected classes. Rep. Jan Pauls and Rep. Lance Kinzer were the main backers of the bill. Even though it has no mention of LGBT people, the intent is clear. In every committee hearing and debate leading to the vote, Rep. Jan Pauls spoke extensively about the "homosexuals and cross-dressers" which earned her a public admonishment from the Democratic Party. If her intent was not to oppress LGBT Kansans, why did she spend so much time talking about them in relation to this bill? Rep. Tom Arpke, who voted in favor of the bill, said, "This has been a controversial thing in the state, but I don't think we need to add protections for people that are a small part of the population when there have been few complaints, if any." This was the same logic used to deny rights to African Americans in the South during the Jim Crow era. Eighty-two Republicans, including Rep. Gary Hayzlett and Rep. Reynaldo Mesa, and nine Democrats, voted in favor of this bill. This bill was born out of ignorance, prejudice, bigotry, fear and hate. Any representative who voted for it just supported those things. They will deny it. I contacted Rep. Brian Weber personally about his vote and he told me that he was not motivated by hatred, and that he does not hate anyone, or any group, or any belief. While I absolutely believe him, there is little difference between backing a law based on hate and bigotry, and voting to pass a law based on hate and bigotry. I have a simple solution and challenge: if you voted in favor of this bill, and you do not hate LGBT Kansans, then you should add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected classes in the Kansas Act Against Discrimination this year. If you do not, then your actions have already spoken for you.

Sincerely,

JOHNNY DUNLAP II,

Spearville

Right time to talk about 'it'

It's time ... to talk about it. Let's be honest, "it" is not an easy subject to talk about. Most of us are uncomfortable talking about sex. But let's take a moment and get past the blushing, because this conversation is so important.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and this April, communities across the country are proclaiming "It's time ... to talk about it!" This year's campaign encourages individuals and communities to bring healthy sexuality into the conversation on how we connect with and respect one another in order to prevent sexual violence. By talking about "it" we are making the connection that promoting healthy behaviors encourages relationships that are consensual, respectful and informed. That is what healthy sexuality is about. Healthy sexuality is having the knowledge and power to express sexuality in ways that enrich our lives. Healthy sexuality is free from coercion and violence. It is important to understand that sexuality is much more than sex. Healthy sexuality is emotional, social, cultural and physical. It is our values, attitudes, feelings, interactions and behaviors. It changes with time and experience. Individuals need accurate information about relationships, sexuality and positive behaviors to ensure the opportunity to make healthy sexual choices. These choices impact our lives, loved ones, communities and society.

All of us have a role in building safe, healthy relationships and communities. When we start the conversation about healthy sexuality, we raise awareness. Prevent sexual violence by talking about "it." It's time .... to talk about it. (For additional information, visit www.nsvrc.org/saam.)

ROBIN SHELDEN,

Garden City

Shelden is executive director of Family Crisis Services Inc.