What a year we are entering after our successes in the November midterms! The Democrats took back the U.S. House of Representatives, and we experienced a Rainbow Wave of LGBTQ candidates nationwide, including an openly lesbian Native American member of the U.S. House, Sharice Davids, in Kansas and a gay governor in Colorado.
We also saw Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodard elected as the first openly LGBTQ members of the Kansas House (see story on page 11 of the February print issue of Camp).
Equality Kansas wrote on its website (https://eqks.org): “Newly inaugurated Kansas Governor Laura Kelly this morning [Jan. 15] signed an executive order extending discrimination protections to LGBT state employees. The order reverses [a] 2015 action by then-governor Sam Brownback, who in a fit of bigotry rescinded protections that had been in place since 2007, when Governor Kathleen Sebelius issued an earlier version of today’s order.
“… In her remarks after signing today’s order, Governor Kelly declared her support for legislation that would extend protections to all LGBT Kansans. Equality Kansas is working with newly elected LGBT state representatives Susan Ruiz and Brandon Woodard to draft and introduce a bill that will amend the Kansas Act against Discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression. Watch this space for more news as it develops.”
In Missouri, State Rep. Greg Razer, who is openly gay, is starting his third year in the House. He has been fighting for the Missouri Nondiscrimination Act (MONA), which has been defeated every session for 21 years. Yet he remains hopeful every year that the measure will finally get passed. MONA would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s Human Rights Statute, which prohibits discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations for other protected categories, including race and sex.
But aside from MONA, Razer presented an amendment in January to the House of Representatives that would protect Missouri House employees from losing their jobs because they were LGBTQ. In a commentary piece that appeared in the Kansas City Star, he wrote: “Currently our internal House staff is legally protected by law from discrimination based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, disability or familial status. Notably absent from that list are people like me. Numerous Missourians are employed by the House. If they show up, work hard and do a good job, it only seems reasonable that they should not have to fear losing their jobs simply because of who they are.”
The amendment was defeated.
Razer went on to write, “I am proud that the entire Democratic caucus of the House voted in favor of this amendment. I am also proud that many within the Republican caucus broke ranks with their leadership and voted for this commonsense proposal, including Rep. Mike Stephens of Bolivar, who spoke out eloquently in support.”
Jolie Justus, after pioneering as an openly gay Missouri state representative and then the first openly gay Kansas City Council member, is trying to add another milestone – being the first openly LGBTQ mayor of Kansas City. Running against 11 other candidates, Justus has been endorsed by the LGBTQ Victory Fund, PROMO of Missouri and LPAC, a political voice for LGBTQ women.
The primary election is scheduled for April 2. Justus needs your support. She will be holding a grand opening for her office at 3110 Gillham Plaza from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Feb. 2. Light snacks and refreshments will be served.
Watch for mayor’s forums in the months leading up to the primary, where you will be able to hear from all the candidates. One is scheduled for 7 p.m. Feb. 20 at Kansas City’s Central Library, 14 W. 10th St. (https://goo.gl/HvrsU8). We will post information about other forums on the Camp Kansas City Facebook page when we know more details.
If you haven’t registered to vote in Missouri or Kansas, make this the year you do so, and vote with the Rainbow Wave!