“I can tell you, as a council member in Hutchinson, Kansas, this is not a simple issue. This is not a simple issue at all,” said Hutchinson Vice Mayor Bob Bush.
The Hutchinson City Council is preparing to take on two competing petitions, both regarding the city’s new anti-discrimination ordinance. The ordinance was controversial from the moment it was proposed and the two clashing attempts to change the law came as no surprise to the city. But the timing of the petitions leaves the council with a dilemma.
The Hutchinson City Council will be able to discuss for the first time on Tuesday two competing petitions regarding the city's new ordinance giving homosexuals limited legal protections.
“Until you sit down with the council members and you look at what the other four council members think and what their opinions are and our options you don't really know how it's going to play out,” said Bush.
The current ordinance, passed in June, prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation only in the cases of housing evictions and employment.
“I think the key point is that you have to have that discussion. You have to be willing to look in the mirror and see who you are,” said Bush.
The ordinance passed by a slim margin, just three to two, in its current form as amended by the Vice Mayor.
“No one should be evicted because you disagree with their lifestyle,” said Bush. “I don't believe that anybody should be made destitute, should lose their job, should be fired, because of their sexual orientation.”
Both supporters and opponents were dissatisfied with that and got to work gathering signatures on petitions to force the city council to take further action.
Now the council faces two petitions that demand the members do exactly the opposite thing. One wants the council to extend full legal protections to homosexuals, just as it has to the elderly, minorities and other groups. The other wants the current ordinance taken off the books entirely.
“It's one of those issues that everybody has an opinion on, and for them it's black or white,” said Bush.
With each petition the council has just two options.
“We'll need to decide whether we approve, accept and enact the petition,” said Bush. “Or whether we forward the petition on to the voters.
Thus, an issue that was first raised last November could finally be put to rest this November. The City Council meeting begins Tuesday morning at 9:00 at the Hutchinson City Hall.