SHAWNEE, Kan. (Christian Examiner) -- Certain protected classes of citizens not already included in federal laws came to the forefront as equal rights issues are raised as the result of local and state lawmakers considering legal protections for LGBT Americans and whether they might be in conflict with the religious freedoms of some.
This week, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed an executive order rescinding an existing protection for LGBT state workers established by a previous Governor in 2007.
Civil rights of veterans and the disabled join the balancing act in Kansas where the Governor's attempt to level the plank with a broadening of the state's "protected classes" has been deemed regressive and discriminatory by some.
In its place, Brownback, a Republican who took office in November, issued an alternative executive order reportedly intended to increase employment-related aid for veterans and disabled people, while reaffirming the state's "commitment" to employment practices that do not discriminate based on "race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age."
"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 the Kansas City Star. The publication reported the Governor's statement did not address sexual orientation or gender identity because "any such expansion of 'protected classes' should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action."
While Brownback's actions are being highly criticized by gay activists and the democratic majority as "unfair," others like Rep. John Rubin of Shawnee, a former federal judge, said it was more fair to let legislature decide if sexual orientation should be a protected class since such a provision does not exist at a federal level.
" Until sexual orientation is either added in Kansas as a protected class under our law, or added federally, which it isn't now ... I think that's the Legislature's prerogative," Rubin told the Kansas City Star. "Whether they should be a protected class is a separate question. ... But it isn't a protected class until we say it is."