February 10, 2015 at 10:43 pm EDT | by Chris Johnson
Kansas governor reverses protections for LGBT state workers
Sam Brownback, Kansas, Republican Party, gay news, Washington Blade

Gov. Sam Brownback (R-Kansas) has reversed non-discrimination protections for LGBT state workers. (Photo public domain)

The newly re-elected governor of Kansas has made rescinding an executive order protecting LGBT state workers from discrimination one of his first orders of business in his second term in office.

On Tuesday, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican, issued two executive orders, one of which, Executive Order 15-01, reverses directives and eliminates agencies established by his predecessors.

A component of Brownback’s executive order rescinds explicit non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation and gender identity for state employees. Those protections were enacted in 2007 by former Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, a Democrat, before she moved on to become head of the Department of Health and Human Services.

In a statement, Brownback indicated he’s reversing the protections because they were “unilaterally” enacted, saying only the state legislature has the authority to impose the change.

“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. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action.”

No state or federal law explicitly protects LGBT people in Kansas, so Brownback’s action leaves Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which has been interpreted to protect transgender people in the workplace, as the only recourse for state workers who feel they’ve experienced discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, called Brownback’s decision an “outrage” and said it leaves state LGBT workers vulnerable to discrimination.

“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. “If you work for the state, and have felt comfortable being ‘out’ at work knowing you had protection from bigotry, that protection is gone.”

No explanation is provided in the statement for why Brownback is waiting until the start of his second term to undo the non-discrimination rules. An opponent of same-sex marriage, Brownback has been fighting a federal court ruling that came down late last year striking down the state’s prohibition on gay nuptials.

Marty Rouse, national field director for the Human Rights Campaign, said Brownback’s action represents a “dramatic reversal” for Kansas.

“For eight years, LGBT state employees have been guaranteed non-discrimination protections and in one foul, reckless, and shameful decision, Gov. Brownback has taken the state backward,” Rouse said. “His deplorable behavior is a direct assault on fairness and equality in the state.”

Chris Johnson is Chief Political & White House Reporter for the Washington Blade. Johnson attends the daily White House press briefings and is a member of the White House Correspondents' Association. Follow Chris

3 Comments
  • Which proves the uselessness of an Executive Order by Obama issuing such protections. It's just a Band-AID that can be removed at anytime by a homophobic administration should it ever manage to get control. You need the real deal, federal legislation once and for all to get the job done for us all!

    The Dems should have given us ENDA back when they controlled the House and Senate instead of stonewalling us with excuses over healthcare legislation and only give us an end to DADT. Must of us don't work for the US military.

    You'll find that while Gays and Lesbians may eventually be able to marry in their home states across the US, they still will face discrimination in employment and housing and maybe more so once they are married out of spite by conservatives. Take nothing for granted.

  • Expect renewed calls for a Constitutional Amendment to ban marriage equality once the court rules in favor of it by social conservatives in the Republican Party. They won't give up on the issue anymore than they've given up on banning abortions despite the Roe V Wade ruling back in 1973.

    You bitches need to stop being so naïve. The culture wars continue even after your apparently have won the battle.

  • Please tell your gay Kansas friends to get their closets refurbished…they're going back IN!
    one comment said: "You bitches need to stop being so naïve. The culture wars continue even after your apparently have won the battle."

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