Topeka City Councilman Chad Manspeaker (D) has filed legislation that would have the city’s Human Relations Commission begin an LGBT rights educational campaign as well as launch a push to promote LGBT rights statewide. Topeka, Kansas is the home of Westboro Baptist Church and the capital of Kansas.
Manspeaker stated that “This is a small step but a giant first step in showing the world that this is not a town of bigotry and hate but a town of inclusion. In terms of Topeka being an inclusive and open-minded community, we need to take these small steps.”
Manspeaker said that “Do I run legislation like this because Westboro lives in Topeka? No. But it sure does feel kind of nice.” Manspeaker has been fighting against Westboro for some time, even apologizing to Newtown, Connecticut after cultists from the Church planned to picket the funerals of those killed in the school shooting.
Other elected officials in Kansas have begun to fight against Westboro as well.
Topeka law bans discrimination in government employment based upon sexual orientation, but because the city also defunded the Human Relations Commission, the agency cannot investigate discrimination complaints and has been regulated to handling educational campaigns.
Kansas Equality Coalition Chairperson Stephanie Mott, a member of the Topeka Human Relations Commission, hoped that the legislation would eventually mean less statewide discrimination. She said “It makes a statement that the city of Topeka believes that prejudice is wrong against any person. It is a step towards the larger goal of acheiveing a discrimination ban.”
Beyond Manspeaker’s proposed legislation, Mott and the KEC hope to push for same-sex partner benefits and a domestic-partner registry.
Manspeaker stated that “This is not a symbolic gesture. This speaks to a much larger direction on seeing where the city should go.”