TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) – The city of Manhattan has enforced amendments to its non-discrimination ordinance.
Gender identity and sexual orientation officially became protected classes on November 1.
The change was the result of a months long conversation between Manhattan’s LGBTQ community and city leaders.
Members of the Flint Hills Human Rights Project told KSNT News the success was a “collaborative effort” that provided opportunities to educate the public and those who govern the town on issues that affect the day to day lives of marginalized groups.
Of the city wide change, Kansas State University student and member of the FHHRP, Seth Dills said – “Its a weight off my shoulders.”
Dills acknowledged the accessibility to jobs and other public services made available to him by the amendment.
A peaceful battle to protect LGBTQ members of the Manhattan community was fought for roughly one year.
FHHRP chair, Katie Jordan said she didn’t necessarily see herself taking a stand when she and her wife, Laura Constance moved to Manhattan from North Carolina four years ago.
That way of thinking quickly evolved.
Jordan went on to help organize the human rights groups persistent effort to appeal to the minds of city commissioners, approaching them at bi-weekly meetings with public comments – often in the form of letters and personal stories from families, allies and those who have experienced discrimination in the city.
Jordan said at its core, this movement in Manhattan was a “group effort,” that saw immense support from local churches.
Religious leaders across town came together in an effort to “love and accept all people” in their community, by penning letters to city commissioners urging them to see a need for change.
Both gender identity and sexual orientation became protected classes under city law, briefly in February 2011.
At that time a human rights commission was also formed.
Following a shift in city commission seats in April of that year, both were abolished.
With the protections once again being enforced, Laura Constance said she’s pleased with how things have panned out. Telling KSNT news,”one of the most amazing things that’s happened for me…and if this was the only thing that happened (it) would make me ecstatic, was that I actually had two individuals come up to me who were younger, basically middle school age, saying that they were really unsure about who they were and were reaching out to me.”
Constance continued, “what that says to me is that people now feel comfortable enough to be able to come out and talk about this.”
Members of the FHHRP agree that with the amended ordinance officially enforced, new opportunities for education in the city of Manhattan are emerging and they are ready and willing to take action.