KC gay rights debate–20 years ago

 Posted by on February 1, 2010 at 5:55 am
Feb 012010

I found some old video recordings of the televised public hearings for Kansas City’s gay rights ordinance 20 years ago. Between the poor quality of the original VCR tapes and the transition to digital, they look even older than that.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-dTZTuoWoQE&hl=en_US&fs=1&]

You gotta’ love those glasses!

City council committee hearings here are televised on a local cable channel and more than 12 hours of public testimony given by hundreds of supporters and opponents  at three public hearings were broadcast repeatedly over the course of several weeks.  It ended up being a major media campaign that we could never have purchased and that has undoubtedly helped contribute to making KC a very tolerant city for gays and lesbians in the Midwest.

As co-founder and co-director of the Human Rights Project (HRP), which was formed to introduce and support this legislation, this was one of the most exciting years of my life.  That effort is intertwined with my campaign in 1991 as the first openly gay candidate for city council.

yard signWe failed to pass the gay rights law in 1990, I didn’t win that race in 1991. Information gleaned from the results of the campaign did, however, provide incontrovertible evidence of a tangible and powerful LGBT community here that now influences all local elections. Tim VanZandt benefited from demographic analyses we performed and was subsequently elected as the first openly gay state representative in Missouri in 1994.

The at-large race also helped to mobilize and organize enough political clout to ensure that the newly elected 13-member city council and mayor would ultimately pass a gay- and lesbian-inclusive civil rights ordinance in 1993. I suppose one could say the vote was unanimous among the eight council members in attendance, though four members were absent and one voted to allow the vote and then left before it actually took place.

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