February 11, 2015 / 1:00 AM / 5 years ago

Kansas governor rescinds protections for gay state workers

Republican Kansas Governor Sam Brownback speaks to supporters after winning re-election in the U.S. midterm elections in Topeka, Kansas, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich

(Reuters) - Kansas Governor Sam Brownback, a conservative Republican re-elected in November, on Tuesday rescinded an executive order issued by a Democratic predecessor that offered protections for gay and bisexual state workers.

Brownback said he was rescinding a 2007 order signed by former Governor Kathleen Sebelius that established a “protected class of rights” for state employees specifically for sexual orientation and gender identity.

In its place, Brownback said he was issuing an executive order that would boost state employment-related aid for veterans and disabled people, while reaffirming the state’s “commitment” to employment practices that do not discriminate based on “race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age.”

Thomas Witt, executive director of Equality Kansas, said Brownback’s order was an outrage and erases job protections for gay, lesbian and transgender employees who had trusted they would be safe from harassment and discrimination.

“If you work for the state, and have felt comfortable being ‘out’ at work knowing you had protection from bigotry, that protection is gone,” Witt said in a statement on the group’s website.

Brownback has been open about his opposition to same-sex marriage during his long career in public office, which included stints in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. He was elected governor of Kansas in 2010.

Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City; Editing by Eric Walsh

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