This November Hutchinson and Salina will decide on voter developed city ordinances that will change how businesses treat people based on their sexual orientation. But some find the way the proposed changes are written confusing.
“I don't understand what it's talking about,” said Tammie Ybarra, a Hutchinson resident. “At all,” she added, laughing.
The proposed ordinance change in Hutchinson would include those who are gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered in the city's groups of protected classes, like the elderly and handicapped. It would make it illegal for businesses to discriminate against someone based on their sexual orientation.
“It's not saying what they want,” Ybarra said.
But the Hutchinson City Attorney, Paul Brown, says the City Council had no choice in the wording of the three page ballot question. State law requires it be, “unaltered, word for word.” He added, “What it was presented to the council, it comes before the voters.”
And in this case the petition was presented precisely the way the new city ordinance would be written.
“We incorporate a great deal of state law in our local ordinance,” Brown said. “And, what it does, in this proposed ordinance is add sexual orientation to those protected classes.”
“I was confused,” said Ybarra’s friend. “It just needs to be shortened down a little bit.”
“But, if they're going to try and do that, they really need to get that straight,” Ybarra added. “So people understand what it's about.”
The good news is, once you've made your way through the ballot question and figured out what it means, it's easy to answer.
“If there's a vote for that particular ordinance, ‘yes’ actually means ‘yes’ and ‘no’ actually means ‘no’,” said Brown.
The Salina question isn't as long as Hutchinson’s, it refers to the proposed ordinance change but doesn't say what it covers. But, in Salina, "yes" means you want to repeal the protections, while "no" means you don't.
State lawmakers did take up a proposal last legislative session to require ballots to be written in plain, simple English, to make them easier to understand. It failed.