Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How Do We Love Our Neighbors?: Snail Mail and Showing Up

Last night's Gay Christian Fellowship was the best yet. I hope you will join us next week when we resume our meetings on Thursday nights from 6:30 to 8:15 at Grace Covenant Presbyterian Church. We encourage all people to attend. Not just LGBT people, but also our allies.

We had a good turnout last night. Roeland Park City Councilmember Megan England was our guest. I was impressed with how eloquent and yet down-to-earth she is. She sat at the tables with us, ate dinner with us, and listened as we participated in our Bible discussion of John 8--the great Cast the First Stone chapter.

Finally, when it was Councilmember England's turn to speak, she informed us about this important issue in the community:

On June 16th the Roeland Park City Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance to "add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes."

In other words, if you are Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, or Transgender, right now it's completely legal for a business in Roeland Park to turn you down for a job because of your sexual orientation or gender identity. Landlords can tell you straight up, "we don't rent to your kind" and you have no legal recourse against such discrimination.

I know. It seems crazy in this day and age to not protect LGBT from such discrimination. Our society in 2014 is much more accepting of LGBT people than it was when some of the old city codes were first written, some forty years ago. Our society in 2014 has changed enormously since even the early 1990s, when my ex-girlfriend and I were turned down for an apartment in a neighboring city in the same county as Roeland Park.

Cindy and I were young--early twenties. We'd been dating for a couple of years and living together almost since day one. We were looking for an affordable apartment in Johnson County where I was attending the community college. We found an ad for a one-bedroom apartment that fit our budget.

From the moment we arrived for a tour of the apartment, the manager gave us the stink eye. As we opened the closet doors and flushed the toilet to check the water pressure, she eyed us suspiciously. As we headed toward the door, we said we were interested in filling out an application. The manager put a stop to it at once.

"We don't have any two-bedroom apartments for rent right now," she said, sternly.

"That's OK. We just want a one-bedroom," I said.

After an awkward pause, the manager said, "We have a policy that we don't rent one-bedroom apartments out to two people of the same sex." She looked at Cindy's tattoos, her nose ring, her short hair.

Cindy looked at me in disbelief.

"So if we were a man and a woman, you'd rent out a one-bedroom apartment to us?" I asked.

The manager held up her hand as if to say, I'm not arguing with you, Little Missy. "All I'm saying is the owners don't allow two people of the same sex to share a one-bedroom apartment. That's our policy."

We left without a fuss. What else could we do? There were no city ordinances to protect us.

Councilmember England and a couple of others on the Roeland Park City Council want to modernize their city codes to reflect how society has evolved. Nowadays we think it's absurd that two young broke-ass college women could be prevented from sharing a bedroom without the landlord butting into their business. But not everyone on the Roeland Park City Council is ready to vote in favor of updating their ordinance.

That's where we come in. Councilmember England said the best two ways to encourage the Roeland Park City Council to pass this anti-discrimination ordinance is snail mail and showing up to city council meetings.

Write a letter to the city council members. Express to them why you think it's important that Roeland Park pass an ordinance that protects LGBT people from discrimination. Even if you're not a resident of Roeland Park, if you live within the Greater Kansas City area, you've probably spent your tax dollars at local restaurants Einstein Bros Bagels or China Star, gas stations like QuikTrip, stores like Price Chopper and Lowe's. Certainly the city council members would not want people to boycott their businesses and decrease tax revenue. But that's what we can tell them we'll do--stop shopping in Roeland Park--if they don't update their city ordinance to protect LGBT people.

Here's a list of the Roeland Park City Council Members. Councilmember England suggests using snail mail. She said it's much more effective than email, since it shows more effort than just quickly sending an email. Here's where you can mail your letters:

Roeland Park City Council
4600 West 51st Street
Roeland Park, Kansas 66205

Councilmember England also recommends showing up to the city council meetings. You don't have to talk if you don't want to. Just your physical presence shows you're concerned about the issue. But if you do want to voice your opinion, it's a great opportunity to do so.

The next Roeland Park City Council meeting will be at 7:00PM on Monday, May 19, 2014. Here's the address (same as where you can mail your letters):

Roeland Park City Council
4600 West 51st Street
Roeland Park, Kansas 66205

Here's the rest of the information I picked up from the flier handed out before this week's Gay Christian Fellowship:

On June 16th the Roeland Park City Council is scheduled to vote on an ordinance to "add sexual orientation and gender identity to the protected classes."

For several weeks this ordinance has been on the agenda of the Roeland Park City Council, and it has generated considerable public debate. At one of the early meetings Equality Kansas made a presentation favoring the ordinance, and last Monday an attorney who is in litigation in the State of Washington for the Alliance Defending Freedom came to speak against it.

We are aware that other municipalities are closely watching the process in Roeland Park.

Let me know if you have any questions. This is an exciting opportunity to show that we truly love our neighbors, as Jesus teaches us to do.