Dozens of people were lined up outside City Hall this morning to voice their opinions on the City’s proposed non-discrimination ordinance. However, after lengthy discussion and a slew of questions, the City Council voted to approve the NDO by a vote of 4-3 with a final vote on the ordinance set for next Tuesday.
“After hearing the comments given today, I believe this ordinance is needed more now than it was before,” said Vice-Mayor Brandon Johnson.
For four hours, the Wichita City Council heard from a diverse group of Wichitas, including LGBTQ citizens, members of the Catholic Church, and a lawyer just to name a few.
Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau, who spoke about a racist incident she experienced at the City’s Red, White, and Boom event, believes discrimination is ever-present in Wichita and urged the council to pass the ordinance.
The council approved a different version of the NDO at its June 15 meeting, but amended the ordinance to include enforcement procedures. The revised, ordinance establishs the City of Wichita as the enforcement agency, and gives the City the ability to investigate complaints of discrimination claimed to have happened within the city limits and to levy civil fines of up to $2,000 for infractions if complaints are not addressed otherwise. Anyone who believes they have been discriminated against has 60 days to submit a complaint with the City Clerk.
“Local control is the best control, those who are against it have based their opinion on misunderstandings,” said Mayor Brandon Whipple.
The ordinance makes it illegal to discriminate against anyone on the basis of age, color, disability, familial status, gender identity, genetic information, national origin or ancestry, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, veteran status, or any other protected factor. This applies to employment, housing, and public accommodations such as stores, hotels, and restaurants.
To help clarify the ordinance, Mayor Whipple said the city made adjustments to the NDO over the past several weeks. This involved incorporating wording from other Kansas communities’ codes as well as state law.