By Trevor Reichle
TOPEKA - It is hard for many people – especially those in states outside the Midwest - to imagine that Kansas has a variety of activists and volunteers championing LGBT causes in the state. One activist who has spent over a decade fighting on behalf of LGBT Kansans is Tom Witt.
Witt currently serves as the executive director for Equality Kansas, an organization that works for pro-LGBT causes and combats anti-LGBT measures in the Kansas state legislature. Witt, whose first big battle in the state was fighting the same-sex marriage ban that eventually passed in 2005, has remained in the state to introduce pro-LGBT legislation each session and counters various anti-LGBT bills as they have come up.
TOPEKA - On Jan. 27, Rep.John Whitmer’s (R-Haysville) anti-transgender “bathroom” bill was formally introduced. HB2171 requires transgender students to use bathrooms that correspond with their “gender at birth.”
Unlike last year’s measure, this year’s bill dropped a controversial “bounty” provision, emboldening Rep. Whitmer to call it a “compromise” bill. At no time did Whitmer contact Equality Kansas or any other LGBT advocacy organization to negotiate a “compromise.”
HB2171 gives the Attorney General open-ended prosecutorial authority. According to the Wichita Eagle, a spokeswoman for Attorney General Derek Schmidt said that the “attorney general’s office did not seek these additional responsibilities nor were we consulted in the drafting of this bill.”
Equality Kansas executive director Tom Witt said, “We will fight this bill with everything we have, and we ask that you stand and fight with us.” Visit eqks.org for updates.
Whitmer’s bill was introduced just as California banned state-funded travel to Kansas over concerns about LGBT discrimination. l
TOPEKA - In solidarity with the march taking place in Washington, D.C., there will be a march in Topeka at the Capitol Building Saturday, Jan. 21, from 1-3pm. The State Capitol building in located at 300 SW 10th St.
This is a show of support for the community members who have been marginalized by the recent election. It is an inclusive march, and everyone who supports women’s rights are welcome, including: women, girls, femmes, GNC, men, boys, families, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ community, people with disabilities, climate change advocates, ALL religious communities, and anyone else who wants to come out in support.
To join a group from Wichita, there will be a bus for $15 per seat, round trip, if there is enough interest. Contact Lori Lawrence, firstname.lastname@example.org for more info or to reserve a seat. l