The Manhattan City Commission discussed a change to a city ordinance regarding discrimination in a meeting on May 31 that would provide protection based on an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as enforcement of those protections.
Katie Jordan, chair of the Flint Hills Human Rights Project, said the draft ordinance “would promote an inclusive environment for the city of Manhattan and it’s residents, and extend rights to everyone that many take for granted.”
“The goal of this is nothing radical,” Ted Morgan, co-chair of the project, said. “LGBT individuals live, work, reside in Manhattan, go to K-State and work in our schools and shops. What we’re asking the city to do, and what the city commission is taking the initiative on, is a reasonable, simple ordinance that will provide protection to LGBT individuals in our community.”
After further investigation, the affected party receives remedies such as the “full and equal use and enjoyment of goods, services, facilities, and accommodations offered.” In addition, the party in violation of the ordinance faces a fine of up to $500, though Morgan expressed doubt that many cases would ever reach that point.
“Following the first investigation, both parties will sit down with a conciliator and discuss the issue,” Morgan said. “From what we’ve learned from asking other municipalities around the country when we first started exploring, this is usually where it stops.”
The reason many cases don’t require further investigation is that they get settled before they reach that point.
“Typically, the individual who comes forward isn’t trying to put that place out of business, and the business didn’t mean to violate their rights,” Morgan said. “So usually, it will stop there – with some amount of education and reconciliation. The fine structure is there so that conciliation will be taken seriously.”
One of the focuses for the draft ordinance “was to be good for business,” Jordan said. This was “to promote inclusivity and have some sort of mediation, while still keeping a fine – just not an astronomical one that would put a place out of business.” In doing so, “businesses would be less likely to come out against” the draft ordinance.
Jordan brought up North Carolina’s “bathroom bill,” which legislates that individuals use bathrooms in accordance to the sex stated on their birth certificate, rather than the one they identify with.
“Although the situation in North Carolina is an unfortunate stream of events, it quantifies how important the rights of individuals are and how society feels about the rights of LGBT individuals,” Morgan said. “When you take them away, there are real economic and social consequences that go on.”
The consequences mentioned by Morgan can be seen in Manhattan, such as in a recent incident at Kite’s Grille and Bar in Aggieville.
Valaree Love, a former K-State student and drag queen, was visiting friends in Manhattan, who Love says are transgender individuals like herself. The group had a night out in Aggieville last weekend, which Love says she’s “not new to,” since she used to go to every week. After visiting a few bars, the group went to Kite’s, a bar Love said the group has had many problems with in the past.
Some of the problems Love mentioned included the owner of Kite’s making derogatory comments, asking the group “what they had between their legs,” as well as a staff member who Love says “hates” them.
“He calls us names, he always gets us in trouble,” Love said. “As soon as he sees us in Aggieville, he tells all the bars ‘you need to watch out for these trannies,’ along with whatever other names he uses.”
Love said the group entered Kite’s “with no problems, got a few drinks and had a great time” until approached by a police officer, who Love said is “very familiar. He’s the one that always comes up to us when we’re addressed about something.”
The officer took Love outside and informed her that she was being kicked out of Kite’s for using the women’s restroom. According to Love, the officer said “I should take you to jail, but I’m not.”
Love told the officer that she didn’t use the women’s bathroom and asked him, “What bathroom do you expect us to use?” The officer told Love that they could use the men’s bathroom, go outside or go to the gas station.
“I’ve never given them a reason to not trust me.” Love said. “We’ve never caused any problems. Now, they’ve created problems. We’ve been taken to jail a few times. It’s a college town, people are drunk. We already draw a lot of attention. They see us, and people react. If we reply or say something back, they’re already on us saying ‘you need to get out.’ It happens all the time.”
Love said the group has tried to get help from bar staff or police before when they have had issues, but they never receive any help.
“They couldn’t care less about us.” Love said.
Frustrated, Love decided to make a post about the incident on Facebook, tagging the name of the officer, along with the Kite’s manager and the owner. Love said she tried multiple times to contact Kite’s management and speak to them about the incident before she posted anything, but they refused to talk to her.
Shortly after Love made the Facebook post, Kite’s started receiving negative, one-star reviews on their Facebook page; so many that, at the time of writing, the one-star reviews outnumbered the five-star reviews.
Love said she turned to social media for it’s viral nature since she couldn’t get through to the police.
“I’m so surprised by all the support people are giving me,” Love said. “I’m getting so many friend requests, everyone’s writing letters and stuff like that. I think it’s important for us to stand together, to make a difference and to let them know that this isn’t right. We’re not a threat, we’re not here to do anything illegal.”
Despite the issues Love has run into in Aggieville, she said Manhattan and K-State were generally inclusive.
“I don’t really have problems anywhere else,” Love said. “There’s been issues at other bars before, but after talking to the staff or owners about it, we’ve never had any more problems with them.”
According to Morgan, the new ordinance does many things for the community to strengthen it. It will help to make business better for K-State and our community and will make our town a more accepting environment.
“The best students and the best faculty are diverse students and diverse faculty,” Morgan said. “Having these protections in place will let people who are considering coming to Manhattan or K-State know that they’re valued members of our community.”