Lawmakers in Kansas have laid out a proposal which would protect LGBTI people from discrimination in the workplace, housing, and services.
The proposal has claimed the support of dozens of lawmakers, including several Republicans.
It was put forward on Monday (4 February) by Democratic representatives Brandon Woodard and Susan Ruiz.
If successful, the legislation would ban discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, the bill has been criticized by conservatives on the grounds that it might affect religious freedoms, The Kansas City Star reports.
‘We really want a diverse workforce’
Woodward and Ruiz, who were elected to office in November last year, are Kansas’ first openly gay lawmakers.
‘Many people don’t realize that you can be fired, denied housing or refused business for being LGBTQ, and I think that’s wrong,’ said Woodard. ‘I don’t believe that’s a Kansas value, and so we want to work to change that.’
His sentiments were echoed by his colleague.
‘I think about how in Kansas we really want to attract new businesses and we really want a diverse workforce. And one of those ways is to continue to have Kansas look like a very welcoming state,’ Ruiz said.
However, not all are as enthusiastic about the bill.
Conservatives have criticized the propusla on the grounds that it would block religious freedoms and be used to target Religious freedoms.
Brittany Jones, advocacy director for the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, said that anti-discrimination legislation ‘been used as a sword’ against people of faith.
The House bill currently has 36 co-sponsors, where it requires 63 votes to pass, and 17 co-sponsors in the Senate, where it requires 21 votes to pass.
The bill follows on from Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signing an executive order to protect the LGBTI state employees.
The order – which was introduced by Governor Kathleen Sebelius in 2007 – prohibited harassment, firing or discrimination against state workers on the grounds of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
However, the order was revoked in 2015 by Kelly’s predecessor, Republican Governor Sam Brownback.
If successful, the current bill would expand on Kelly’s executive order, covering businesses, housing, and public accommodations, and adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the state’s existing non-discrimination law.
In a statement, Kelly said ‘This change is long overdue,’ and emphasized the importance of all Kansans being protected from discrimination.