TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — A Kansas lawmaker has questioned why a state agency included sexual orientation in an anti-discrimination clause for safe houses for victims of human trafficking.
The safe houses are part of anti-trafficking statutes passed by the state Legislature last year, The Topeka Capital-Journal reported. The legislation was a major initiative for Gov. Sam Brownback, who will sign a proclamation Thursday declaring January Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Kansas.
Daric Smith, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s program director for child placing and residential programs, came before the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules and Regulations on Tuesday to tell legislators how the department planned to implement the law.
Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, asked Smith why sexual orientation was included with gender and race in the nondiscrimination categories for admission to the secure facilities. She said state statutes don’t include sexual orientation among attributes for which Kansans are protected from discrimination.
“Anything that’s not under our discrimination statutes should be dropped out of the definitions of what legal discrimination is,” said Pauls, who helped author Kansas’ constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.
Smith said the language was added to ensure homosexual victims get helped.
“The issue is, if you have a homosexual child who was prostituted out there, you don’t want a facility denying treatment to that child,” Smith said. “Not that we believe anybody would deny services based on that.”
Pauls said including sexual orientation in legal nondiscrimination regulations could pose problems for religious institutions that provide help and also oppose homosexual activity. Pauls said protections based on sexual orientation could be included elsewhere.
“There can be other regulations, but it can’t be tied to discrimination,” she said.
Sen. Tom Hawk, D-Manhattan, said during a break in the hearing it was right that sexual orientation was included because human trafficking often relates directly to sexual activity and some of the victims will be homosexuals. Hawk recommended it be made clear somewhere that homosexual human trafficking victims should receive services.