City Council Approves Adding LGBT To Human Relations Scope

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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - After an emotional debate, the Topeka City Council voted 6-2 to expand the scope of the Human Relations Commission to include work toward protecting people from discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Elaine Schwartz and Sylvia Ortiz voted no. Richard Harmon was absent. The council chamber erupted in applause when the vote was announced.

Councilman Chad Manspeaker introduced the ordinance. Before Tuesday night's vote, he said if he lost re-election because of his stance on the issue, he "will sleep just fine at night."

The council's vote followed comments from 20 members of the public. Of those, 15 spoke in favor of the ordinance. Five spoke against.

Other emotional comments from the council came from District 5 councilwoman Michelle de la Isla and District 2 rep John Campos.

De la Isla spoke of her own experience with discrimination as a Latino woman. She also revealed that her sister attempted suicide because she loved another woman.

Campos revealed in his comments that he is not only Catholic, but bi-sexual. He said the issue highlights a clash between generations.

Schwartz unsuccessfully lobbied for a substitute motion which would have removed any specific groups from the ordinance and instead made a general statement about protecting all Topekans from discrimination. It failed 2-6, with Schwartz and Ortiz the only yes votes. Schwartz later said she was trying to find middle ground on the issue.

The ordinance does not offer any specific protections against discrimination to people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. It simply says the HRC will include those considerations in its efforts to educate people.