Topeka City Council Revises Ordinance in order to Exclude Gay Rights
By the Topeka Gay & Lesbian Task Force
The lesbian and gay community of Topeka, Kansas--home of the infamous
Fred Phelps and his “religious” sect--suffered another major setback Tuesday
(June 9) when the Topeka City Council unanimously voted to strip the city’s
first gay-supportive mayor of her power to appoint members to the Topeka
Human Relations Commission, shortly after she had appointed a gay man and
a lesbian to the commission.
When the mayor’s two new appointees proposed that the commission study the issue of discrimination against lesbians and gays, the City Council voted to strike from the Human Relations ordinance the provision that allowed the commission to “study the problem of discrimination or any other matter which may have an adverse impact on community relations.”
As a group of Phelps’ followers--who advocate the execution of homosexuals--demonstrated outside City Council chambers, the councilwoman who oversaw the revision of the ordinance indicated that the Council was not aware of any discrimination suffered by lesbians and gays in Topeka.
When asked at the meeting why they eliminated the provision that even allowed for the study of discrimination issues, all nine council members declined to answer.
Rev. Phelps was joined by Rev. K.E. Hill, president of the local chapter
of the NAACP, in calling for the exclusion of gay issues from consideration
by the Human Relations Commission. Rev. Hill, writing on behalf of
the NAACP in a guest editorial in the local paper, proposed that the mayor
“be authorized to prohibit any gay rights legislation or discussion of
the same in this commission.” He chastised the mayor for appointing
gay commissioners, calling them “stated supporters of . . . sinful acts”.
Further, he wrote that “Mayor Wagnon, in her tenacious abuse of authority,
elected to attract people who choose to have their sins or sickness categorized,
who hope to receive special exonerations and rights above other professing
“The matter of homosexuality belongs in the churches,” he continued, “where all sins will be rightly addressed, indiscriminately. The church has the power to take the worst sinner and make him or her better.”
At Tuesday night's meeting where the mayor's appointment power was stripped, the state’s sodomy law was cited as a reason for the Council to eliminate gay and lesbian participation in the Human Relations Commission. That law criminalizes homosexual sodomy in Kansas while specifically legalizing heterosexual sodomy.
The full text of Rev. Hill's 4/18/98 editorial in the Topeka-Capital
Journal entitled "Mayor
uses HRC to promote wrong agenda."
From the ACLU
Wendy McFarland of the Kansas American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has sent numerous emails to NAACP chapters all over the U.S., urging them to challenge Reverend Hill’s remarks. She also sent a message to the National Black Gay and Lesbian Leadership Forum (NBGLLF). To date, she has not heard from any of them. Here is a portion of her message:
The elementary school made famous by the historic Brown v Topeka Board
of Education decision is due to be opened as a museum by the National Park
Service within a year. We expect a great deal of national exposure
here in Kansas to commemorate the opening and by rights, the NAACP should
play a major role in that event. Keep that in mind when you read
[Rev. Hill’s article], realize that his next audience may go well beyond
the greater Topeka area when he speaks again, on behalf of people of color,
to members of the national media covering the aforementioned event.
I plead with you to take a stand against allowing the NAACP to be used as a platform to legitimize the discrimination against anyone who happens to be gay. The ACLU will always defend the rights of individuals to be free from acts of any type of discrimination but for the NAACP (locally) to deny that protection to a class of people who are not so visibly different as others more commonly targeted for unfair treatment, is hypocrisy at its worst.