After hours of intense discussion, The Wichita City Council approved an anti-discrimination ordinance, 4-3, on Tuesday.
The ordinance makes it illegal to discriminate in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of age, race, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or gender identity. Fines of at least $500 can be imposed.
The discussion became heated between several council members and the mayor on the ordinance procedures and handling.
“We can settle your concerns, but people want to kill this based on process. I’m sorry I’m not better at controlling my emotions, I’m not very good at standing on the sideline in the face of injustice,” said Mayor Whipple.
Some council members voiced concerns about how the ordinance vote was conducted. They felt it was rushed and not thoroughly vetted.
“Wichita 100% deserves a non-discrimination policy ordinance in place with tough teeth, enforcement, but it needs to be vetted through the public,What happened today was embarrassing rushed and unprepared policy ” said council member Jared Cerullo.
For two hours, the Wichita City Council heard from Wichitans, including those with Equality Kansas and Table of Hope Church.
“This is the first step to saying to every single person, you matter,” said Table of Hope Pastor Jackie Carter.
It’s surprising in 2021 that the City does not have a discrimination ordinance. According to historic records from the Wichita Eagle, the City passed a discrimination ordinance in 1977 that included discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That ordinance was repealed on a citywide vote by a margin of four to one.
According to discussion during Tuesday’s Council meeting, at some point the City passed a similar ordinance but it was repealed in 1999.
The ordinance will be read a second time before the city council on July 6, 2021, and will be placed on the agenda under “unfinished business.”Changes could still be made to the ordinance during the reading.