Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback (R) on Tuesday rescinded an executive order that extended anti-discrimination protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered state employees, outraging equal rights advocates who condemned the move.
In its place, Brownback issued an order that his office said committed the state to employment practices that do not discriminate on the basis of race, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age. Sexual orientation and identity were unmentioned in the new order.
Brownback said the previous order, issued by Gov. Kathleen Sebelius in 2007, created what he called “protected classes” of citizens unilaterally, without input from the legislature. A Brownback spokeswoman told the Lawrence Journal-World the governor would not propose legislation to protect state employees based on sexual orientation or identity.
“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 in a statement. “Any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action. The order also reaffirms our commitment to hiring, mentoring and recognizing veterans and individuals with disabilities.”
Gay rights activists were stunned by the rescinded order. In a statement, Equality Kansas Executive Director Thomas Witt called the move an “outrage.”
“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.
The order was one of nine issued by Brownback’s predecessors, Govs. Kathleen Sebelius (D) and Mark Parkinson (D), that the current governor pulled back. Most of the others involved boards and commissions that no longer meet, like the state Broadband Advisory Task Force and the Interagency Working Group for Wind Energy.