To the editor:

On Feb. 23, some board members of Equality Kansas of Metro KC, including myself, met at a restaurant in Lansing. We had invited several local Kansas legislators to join us to discuss HB 2320 and 2321. Both bills are extremely cruel and hateful toward the LGBTQ+ community, denouncing same-sex marriage and even LGBTQ+ folks themselves. 

We selected Lansing because one of the sponsors of the bills represents the Lansing district and I am from Leavenworth County.

It was short notice and none of the legislators were able to come with one exception: Rep. Dennis Highberger from Lawrence. He listened to the stories of people who shared how these bills are hurtful. These bills will probably not go anywhere and yet they have had an impact on the lives of Kansans. The message of the bills was clear. The bills are filled with hate and discrimination for our fellow Kansans.

According to the Washington Post and other sources, Rep. Highland, one of the sponsors of the bills, had this to say after being called out by his daughter, who is a lesbian: “The bill that I should not have signed on to cosponsor contained some hateful language which I do not condone. … I have asked for my name to be removed from the bill. The process for doing so is in motion.”

Equality Kansas of Metro KC has been in the news of late for championing inclusive non-discrimination ordinances in cities like Merriam and Prairie Village. Some folks have come out against us, saying that the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t need special protection under the law. After reading these two bills – and I encourage everyone to take the time to read them – it is very obvious that we need inclusive non-discrimination ordinances. 

It is my hope that folks in Leavenworth County will let their legislators know that these bills do not represent us and that Kansas has no room for hate. We respect others in our community, including neighbors, friends and family, affording them the same rights that we give ourselves. 

And I hope that the citizens in communities that don’t have inclusive non-discrimination ordinances will recognize that yes, the LGBTQ+ community really does need protection under the law.