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Rights Rolled Back in Kansas for Gay Workers

TOPEKA (CN) - Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback issued an executive order Tuesday rescinding discrimination protection for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender state workers, which was established in 2007 by then-Gov. Kathleen Sebelius.

Sebelius' order added sexual orientation and gender identity to other protections based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry, age, military, or veteran and disability status.

Brownback said Tuesday that his executive order "reaffirms the commitment of the State of Kansas to employment practices which do not discriminate based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age."

But Brownback's executive order met a less-than-enthusiastic reception from gay rights groups.

It's a "sad day in Kansas," said Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, a Wichita organization that seeks to end discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Witt called Brownback's executive order "an outrage" that declares "open season" on gay, lesbian and transgender state employees.

"If you work for the state, and have felt comfortable being 'out' at work knowing you had protection from bigotry, that protection is gone," said.

In his own statement, Brownback did not mention that his order erased protection based on sexual orientation.

He claimed that the executive order will focus on veterans and the disabled, and that the state will implement "employment practices for veterans and disabled individuals that include outreach, hiring, support, mentoring, development, rewards and recognition for achievement."

"This executive order ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional 'protected classes' as the previous order did," Brownback said. "Any such expansion of 'protected classes' should be done by the Legislature and not through unilateral action."

Witt disagreed. He said that Brownback's rescission of Sibelius's order ensures that "discrimination against state of Kansas employees, in every state agency, is now permitted under Brownback's order."

Brownback also rescinded two other executive orders signed by Sebelius and abolished task forces, working groups and commissions created through those and other executive orders.

Brownback rescinded the executive order that made the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees/Child Care Providers Together the exclusive majority representative of registered and licensed family child care providers.

He also rescinded an order that established the Wind Working Group, and others.

Abolished task forces and working groups and commissions include The Governor's Wind Working Group; Governor's P20 Education Council; Kansas Coalition for Children in Nature; Kansas Broadband Advisory Group; Kansas Food Security Task Force; Interagency Working Group for Wind Energy; Commission on Graduation and Dropout Prevention and Recovery.

"Many of these commissions, working groups and task forces have not met for several years or duplicate other, ongoing efforts," Brownback said in a statement. "These changes streamline operations and reduce operational costs of maintaining these various committees."

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