Sam Brownback Ends LGBT Workplace Protections In Kansas, Rights Groups Outraged

Sam Brownback

Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed an executive order to end protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity for state employees, outraging the LGBT community.

In the state of Kansas, state employees can not be fired or otherwise discriminated against based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age. According to Governor Sam Brownback, that’s enough for now.

CNN reports that the governor’s executive order is cancelling out another order from then-governor Kathleen Sibelius in 2007. According to a statement from Sam Brownback, that order was wrong.

“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. 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.”

MSNBC reports that the legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Kansas chapter, Doug Bonney, said the order was “shocking” and “unprecedented.”

“I read this as a signal ‘go ahead’ you can discriminate against people on their sexual orientation. It sends absolutely the wrong message … it says, frankly, ‘please leave.'”

Those state employees who were openly homosexual now face a difficult situation in the workplace according to Thomas Witt, executive director at Equality Kansas.

“If you work for the state and have felt comfortable being “out” at work knowing you had protection from bigotry, that protection is gone.”

He went on to say that the executive order effectively makes it “open season” on LGBT staff members.

According to the ACLU, Kansas will rejoin 29 other states who lack anti-discrimination laws for sexual orientation.

The timing of the decision seems like a sacrifice to try and satisfy Brownback’s dwindling conservative base.

In 2010, Sam Brownback won his governor’s seat with 63.3 percent of the vote, vowing to make Kansas a model of hard-right economic policies. In May 2012, he signed Kansas Senate Bill Substitute HB 2117, one of the largest income tax cuts in the history of the state.

The cut led to a massive budget deficit, which was even panned by many of Kansas’ Republicans.

In the 2014 election, 100 Republican elected officials endorsed the governor’s Democratic opponent Paul Davis. Brownback still won in the conservative state, but this time with only 50 percent of the vote.

Now, just a few months after the election, the governor’s order to end LGBT protection might well come off as more of pandering to the base rather than principal.

In any case, Sam Brownback’s executive order to end LGBT protections, coupled with continuing budget problems, will likely put homosexual employees in a difficult position.

[Image Credit: Getty]