Four Kansas towns are considering passing “nondiscrimination” ordinances that allow people to use public showers, restrooms and dressing rooms set aside for the opposite sex.
Hutchinson, Pittsburg, Salina and Wichita were asked by gay activists to add “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” to a list of groups protected by civil rights laws. Salina will vote on the proposal on May 14, and Hutchinson on May 15. “Gender identity” refers to people’s belief that they belong to the opposite sex, are a blend of the two or neither.
As distressing as family advocates find the proposed rules concerning public dressing rooms and showers, they are even more concerned by the fact that they actively discriminate against churches: If passed, any church allowing its facilities to be used for public events would be required to let gay or transgendered people “who want to rent the building for a party” do the same, according to a list of Frequently Asked Questions provided by the Hutchinson Human Relations Council.
“It’s basically a blanket policy for any kind of protection to be based on sexual behavior,” said Robert Noland, executive director of the Kansas Family Policy Council (KFPC). “The church implication is one that really concerns us, because it’s the further erosion of religious liberty. They claim there’s an exemption there, but the only way to get it is to not use your church for public events.”
If passed, the ordinances would also impose significant burdens on business owners, who would not be allowed to make any employment decisions based on a person’s “sexual orientation” or “gender expression,” including enforcing dress codes. Though they wouldn’t be required to get rid of gender-segregated restrooms, “a transgender person must be allowed to use restrooms appropriate to their gender identity rather than their assigned gender at birth without being harassed or questioned,” the FAQ sheet states.
And if other business patrons have concerns about a person of the opposite gender in their respective facilities, the Hutchinson Human Relations Council suggests “offering the use of a private restroom to a member of the public, or encouraging that individual to wait until the other person has left. Remember, however, that it would be illegal to require a transgender person to use a gender-neutral restroom facility, or to require a transgender person to use restrooms appropriate to their gender identity only when others are not present.”
That means a transgender person is given priority over everyone else.
The ordinances would also impose financial burdens on business owners, though Noland said to his knowledge, none of the towns have conducted an economic impact study.
According to the FAQ, “It is recommended that public accommodation facilities, such as locker rooms … take steps to create private spaces with them (for example, by installing curtains or cubicles). Individuals who are nonetheless uncomfortable with sharing locker or shower facilities with a transgender person should be accommodated by allowing those individuals to shower or change at a time when they will be able to use the facility in private.”
KFPC has established a Web site, www.awakenkansas.com, tracking the issues in all four cities. Last week, Noland delivered 900 petition signatures to the Hutchinson City Council from concerned citizens.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Learn more about the issue, and take the opportunity to sign an online petition.
Read the Hutchinson Human Relations Commission’s FAQ Sheet on the issue.