TOPEKA (KSNT) — Governor Sam Brownback has rescinded an executive order issued during the Sebelius administration that offered protection to state employees. Then Governor Kathleen Sebelius’s 2007 order specifically protected state workers on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
The governor’s move took many state legislators by surprise this afternoon. But democrats and union officials we spoke with were quick to say they are fed up with the way the governor is running the state. And say this last move is just another low blow for gays and lesbians across the state.
“The bottom line the work force gets much less diversity when you take these protections away,” said Rebecca Proctor, Executive Director of Kansas Organization of State Employees.
Rebecca Proctor is referring to the 2007 executive order to bar discrimination in hiring and employment of state workers based on sexual orientation and gender identity.
In rescinding Sebelius’ order, Brownback said, “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not though unilateral action.”
But the problem, say critics, is this order is being repealed before the legislature had time to take any action.
Leaving many state employees, not covered by collective bargaining agreements, unprotected.
“I will be looking for a bill to protect people who are gay, lesbian and bisexual and transgender from discrimination. Add that to our non-discrimination statues,” said Rep. John Wilson, (D) 10th House District.
Union officials say the governor has now makes it harder for people who were once protected under the previous order to make a case for discrimination.
“That person may no longer have recourse to report that harassment or intimidation up through their supervisor or agency,” said Proctor.
In a statement House Democratic Leader Tom Burroughs says, “This is an attempt to distract from the serious budget crisis facing our state…the bottom line is this, all Kansans deserve to be treated fairly and with respect and no Kansan should be denied equal protection under the law.”
“I can’t wait till the day the governor and his friends realize that gay, lesbian and bisexual and transgender Kansans are a part of this state too,” said Wilson.
Several republican lawmakers I spoke to tonight say they had no information about the governor’s move – and didn’t want to comment. In a second order the governor encouraged the hiring of veterans and the disabled as state employees.
Members of the planting peace charity, along with equality advocates have planned a ‘love protest’.
This protest is scheduled for noon on Saturday, on the south lawn of the capitol.
Representative Wilson says he hopes to present his anti-discrimination bill to the legislature soon.