Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Restores LGBTQ Protections As Her First Official Act In Office

In her first official act, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed an executive order restoring protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender state employees that were eliminated by Gov. Sam Brownback in 2015.

“As my first official act as Governor, I am reinstating protections to state employees who are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender. EO 2019-02 restores rights that were taken away in recent years,” Kelly wrote Tuesday on her official Twitter account.

“Discrimination of any kind has no place in Kansas. It will not be tolerated,” she added.

The order, issued on her full first day as governor, came after she urged elected leaders to lift up all Kansans, whether or not they “love like us,” during her inaugural address Monday.

“As I have said numerous times before, discrimination of any kind has no place in Kansas and it will not be tolerated in this administration,” Kelly said. “We will ensure that state workers feel safe and supported in their working environment.”

The Kansas City Star reports:

The order, first put in place by Democratic Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2007, prohibited harassment, firing or discrimination against state workers based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Brownback removed the protections the same year the U.S. Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. At the time, Brownback said the order had created “a new protected class” through executive action and that any change should be made by the Legislature.

Kelly’s order goes further than the original protections, extending also to people who work for state contractors. It also calls for a program to increase awareness of legal protections for persons with disabilities and requires agencies to develop affirmative action plans.

“It’s an important message to businesses and everybody else in Kansas that this is going to be a place where fairness and equality are valued and promoted,” said Tom Witt, director of Equality Kansas.

State Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook (R-Shawnee) denounced Kelly’s order.

She told the Associated Press it is “anti-liberty” and said it is “degrading to reduce individuals” to their “sexual inclinations.”

“These laws cause divisions in communities and can have serious detrimental and unintended consequences because of their subjective nature,” she added.