In my last post, I sang the praises of newly inaugurated governors here in Wisconsin and next door in Michigan signing executive orders aimed at prohibiting discrimination toward state employees or those they serve based on gender or sexual identity. Both Tony Evers and Gretchen Whitmer were elected governors of their respective states last November, when a nice “blue” wave washed across much of the United States. And their pro-LGBT orders were a nice start to 2019. But they weren’t the only ones to make such an awesome move.
The lady sitting at that desk is another newly elected governor, Laura Kelly of Kansas. Kelly took office this past Monday, and in her own first official act as governor, signed an executive order that reinstated protections for LGBT workers within the executive branch of state government, as well as extend such protections to businesses that have contracts with the state. I say “reinstated” because back in 2007, the governor at that time put into place protections that prohibited harassment, termination of employment, or any form of discrimination based on one’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Eight years later a successor governor who was nowhere near as progressive rescinded those orders, claiming it’s the responsibility of Kansas’ legislature to enact any changes.
Speaking of the Kansas legislature, guess what? On the same day Kelly signed her executive order, the first two openly gay state representatives in the state’s history announced they would introduce a bill that would extend anti-discrimination protections to LGBT Kansans, which Governor Kelly has indicated she would sign into law. This is amazing news from a state that has a less-than-progressive reputation when it comes to not only politics but respect for those that aren’t of a WASPy culture. As Governor Kelly put it when she signed her order, “discrimination of any kind has no place in Kansas and it will not be tolerated in this administration.”
Kansas isn’t the only place where fairness is prevailing: In Ohio, that state’s own new governor Mike DeWine, signed his own executive order that prohibits any discrimination in state employment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. This move came one month after the man DeWine replaced as governor signed a similar order that prohibited workplace discrimination against transgender state employees. The remarkable thing about this is that both DeWine and his predecessor… well, unlike Laura Kelly in Kansas, they’re part of a political party that is nowhere near progressive (yeah, one that begins with an “R”), while DeWine was the attorney general who defended Ohio’s anti-marriage equality all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in 2015. (Yeah, we know how that turned out.)
Thankfully, new governors weren’t the only ones getting in on the equality act: This week in the state of New York, the full state legislature finally passed a measure billed as the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA). For 11 years, the lower half of the legislature kept giving their approval to GENDA, but it went nowhere in the upper half, the Senate, because… well, yeah, the Senate was dominated by lawmakers with a “R” next to their names. (Ugh.) Luckily, progressives now have majorities in both chambers, which was to the benefit of not only GENDA reaching the governor’s desk but a separate law banning the practice of “conversion therapy” by mental health professionals (i.e. the long discredited practice of “correcting” one’s sexual orientation) on minors.
Yes, New York’s governor has indicated that he would sign both measures. And when he does, it will be another positive step in our country in favor of respect toward our beautiful community. Thank goodness for progress.