January 12, 2022 - With last week seeing the beginnings of both the Kansas and Missouri legislative sessions, we're diving into the Chamber's public policy platform this week. Leon Harden, former Policy Chair and Doug Spear, new Policy Chair sat down with us to discuss where we've been, where we're going and what's happened along the way.
The Mid-America LGBT Chamber's public policy platform determines what we talk about, comment on and support from a legislative level, and is continually seeing growth. Through the years, the committee has focused on issues that are reflective of community needs centered around how to create a more equitable environment across all communities. With issues like market access, health and non-discrimination being long-term focuses, the Chamber has also adopted the issues of transportation, family benefits and education within the last two years. "As we continue to remain focused on the LGBT community, we aim to be more all-encompassing in the way we approach policy," notes Harden. "There are all sorts of flavors and colors associated & represented within the LGBT community. We aim to look at all of them holistically in order to lift everyone up."
When speaking toward cycles that lean toward discrimination, the issues that the Chamber policy committee has outlined as focuses are reflective of the struggles that we see at a local, state and federal level. No one can speak better toward policies and systems that discriminate than those that the policies discriminate against. Those in the LGBT community know all too well about the negative results of discriminatory policies. Spear says: "The only way to break these cycles (of poverty, access to healthcare, etc), is to invest in these core issues."
Harden & Spear both noted specific obstacles that we have in front of us when looking toward legislative session. These are primarily centered around the efforts by more conservative legislators advocating for bills that energize their voter base - also mostly conservative - that in turn, result in decreased equality and access. Spear cited a specific example being the conversation around the bills preventing transgender athletes from participating in school sports passed last year. "These are just the beginning of discriminatory issues," says Spear.
What's the solution? Building relationships and starting at the local level. Spear says: "We want to build relationships with these legislators to help guide them as they consider what legislation might come in front of them and what the implications of that legislation is for all those they represent." In an effort to be more focused on these relationships, Spear will have a Co-Chair of Public Policy, David Johnson. Having two chairs of this committee will allow the Chamber to hone in its focuses on both sides of the state line, while not forgetting the importance of local entities and the KC metro area, where much of recent victories have come from. Speaking toward recent wins, Spear noted the actions of local legislatures to make impactful change: "Through Equality Kansas & other organizations in the metro, the majority of city entities in the KC metro area have passed non-discrimination policies." Harden also commented toward this being a step forward and is excited toward the steps that this committee will continue to take in the future.
For more information on the Chamber's public policy committee, click HERE.