Lawrence unanimously votes to increase trans protections, establish sanctuary city

The Lawrence City Commission voted 5-0 Tuesday night to establish the city as a transgender...
The Lawrence City Commission voted 5-0 Tuesday night to establish the city as a transgender sanctuary city. The passage of the ordinance was met with applause and cheer from transgender individuals and transgender allies.(lawrenceksvideo (YouTube))
Published: Jul. 19, 2023 at 12:47 PM CDT
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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (KCTV) - Kansas’s “Women’s Bill of Rights” was just one bill amidst a wave of anti-trans bills signed into law during the most recent legislative session, causing concern from LGBTQ+ rights activists and anxiety within the transgender community.

Under the new law, which took effect July 1, transgender women are unable to enter single-sex spaces such as bathrooms, domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers and prison wards. The law also officially defines sex on a binary. A recent interpretation of the law by Attorney General Kris Kobach expanded the law’s impact by requiring all gender markers state-issued IDs to reflect the sex a person was born as – even if the gender marker has already been changed.

On Tuesday night, the Lawrence City Commission unanimously voted 5-0 to become a transgender sanctuary city, increasing protections for transgender people. Lawrence has previously been recognized by the Human Rights Campaign as a top scoring city pertaining to LGBTQ+ rights. Recent data presented at the meeting show that residents of Lawrence feel strongly about protecting LGBTQ+ rights.

With the ordinance’s passage, the city is now a “safe haven for all persons seeking shelter from the adversity of discrimination,” including those affected by the law.

READ MORE: Transgender Kansans consider whether to change gender markers on IDs before new law takes effect

The city claims the new law threatens the health, safety, welfare and rights of residents while also hurting the city’s economy. The ordinance also stated the provisions of the bill are contrary to the city’s commitment to creating an inclusive, safe and welcoming environment to all individuals.

Under the passed legislation, the city will not be allowed to:

  • gather or disseminate information regarding any resident’s biological sex
  • arrest, cooperate or assist in any investigation related to the enforcement of the law
  • ask any question relating to a person’s biological sex on any city application, interview form or other documents provided by the city

Multiple people showed up in favor of passing the ordinance, including transgender people and allies. Ruby Johnson, who is a transgender woman, spoke out against the bill and implored the city to stick to its morals in protecting its transgender citizens.

“I believe that our city has the will and the drive to stand with my siblings and myself and not allow the people who uphold these values, this community, to be silenced and invisible... these first steps will keep us safe and keep each other safe,” she said. “Make no mistake, this threatens us all, not just my community.”

Justice Horn, who is the author of the ordinance which made Kansas City, Missouri, a transgender sanctuary city, emphasized the two cities should be at the forefront of pushing back against anti-trans legislation.

“When it comes to leaning in on these issues, it will not only retain but also attract a workforce from the new generation,” he said. “It will keep people in the communities they grew up in and fell in love with. Hopefully, they will continue to grow roots in Lawrence... I commend everyone for being on the right side of history.”

ALSO READ: Kansas City is now a sanctuary city for the trans community

During discussion, Mayor Lisa Larsen choked up as she cast her vote in favor of the ordinance.

“This makes me really sad that we have to do this,” she said. “People just want to live their lives and be left alone, and we have a state government that seems to think otherwise... this Senate Bill 180 is nothing but fear and confusion.”

The ordinance’s passage was met with applause and cheers from the ordinance’s proponents.