LAWRENCE, Kan. – The Lawrence City Commission has added gender identity to the city’s anti-discrimination code, making it illegal for employers, landlords and most businesses to discriminate against people who are transgendered.
After a two-hour discussion, the commission voted 4-1 Tuesday night to add legal protection for people who are transgendered or who don’t identify with the gender of their birth, according to The Lawrence Journal-World.
Commissioners approved the ordinance in front of a divided crowd of more than 70 people who filled the City Commission chambers and much of the lobby.
Commissioners heard from several residents who said they opposed the new ordinance because it would wrongly condone a “lifestyle choice” that some individuals make to be transgender.
City Commissioner Mike Amyx, who voted against the ordinance, also said he was not comfortable overruling two previous votes by the city’s Human Relations Commission that recommended the ordinance not be adopted.
But Mayor Aron Cromwell said the vote to change the city code was a matter of opposing discrimination.
“This is not about morality,” Cromwell said. “It is about discrimination.”
Supporters of the ordinance told commissioners that when a man or a woman transitions to the opposite gender, it is not a lifestyle choice but rather because of a biological disposition.
“This ordinance can send a message of acceptance and say that Lawrence is a place where everyone can be themselves,” said Scott Criqui, a Lawrence resident who has led an effort to get the law passed.
Toni Wheeler, director of the city’s legal department, said the new law would provide protections to people who “persistently” identify with a gender different from their gender at birth.
“I think this is very workable from a business standpoint,” said City Commissioner Bob Schumm, who also is a restaurant owner. “What it comes down to is I simply cannot tolerate discrimination.”