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‘This is who Gov. Brownback is,’ says a state pro-family leader.

KANSAS CITY, KS, February 13, 2015 ( — Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback barely survived his 2014 re-election race, but he hasn't let that keep him from controversy.

Even as he proposed cutting the state's education budget this week, Brownback also rescinded a 2007 executive order – implemented by his predecessor, former HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius – creating special protections for homosexual and ‘transgender’ employees.

The new executive order, Brownback wrote, “ensures that state employees enjoy the same civil rights as all Kansans without creating additional ‘protected classes’ as the previous order did.” According to the governor, “any such expansion of ‘protected classes’ should be done by the legislature and not through unilateral action.”

Critics immediately assailed the decision, with Equality Kansas Executive Director Thomas Witt saying in a statement, “Discrimination against State of Kansas employees, in every state agency, is now permitted under Brownback’s order.”

“This action by the Governor is an outrage,” said Witt. “Gay, lesbian, and transgender state employees across Kansas have trusted they would be safe from discrimination and harassment in their workplace but Sam Brownback has, by erasing their job protections, declared 'open season' on every one of them.”

Likewise, Center for American Progress senior fellow Ian Millhiser indicated that Brownback's executive order was unconstitutional and done to target homosexuals and transgendered people. In a post entitled “Kansas Governor Takes Mean-Spirited Swipe At Gay Rights, Forgets To Read The Constitution,” Millhiser wrote, “If Kansas actually fires someone for being gay or trans, they are likely to find themselves on the wrong end of a federal lawsuit.”

Millhiser, however, also acknowledged that the Supreme Court has not yet given strict guidance or constitutional interpretation on how employers treat homosexuals and transgendered persons.

Philip Cosby, executive director of the American Family Association of Kansas and Missouri, praised Brownback. “This is who Gov. Brownback is,” Cosby told LifeSiteNews. “To affirm one man and one woman is not inconsistent with who he is. So those that are of the faith should be encouraged, as we do see the cultural war rage, redefining the family at a rapid rate.”

Heritage Foundation legal fellow Andrew Kloster said that while “you can't target people just because you don't like them,” it is legal to “hire or fire someone because of their sexual orientation due to the effect that person has on office moral.”

“Brownback rescinded a lot of Executive Orders,” said Kloster. “Elections have consequences. And he's allowed to manage his ship, within the confines of the Constitution of Kansas and the United States, as he sees fit. I do not believe his rescission of the order means he intends to discriminate against folks based on sexual orientation or anything, based upon his explanation of this.”

In a conversation with LifeSiteNews, Witt said he's not just concerned about Brownback's policy — he's also concerned with what he indicated is hypocrisy by his state's highest executive.

“That is not the kind of thing that needs to go through the legislative process,” said Witt. “If you'll notice, right after Governor Brownback rescinded protections for gay and transgender Kansans, he added protections for veterans and disabled people. There is no need for the legislative process because EOs are only applicable to the Executive Branch employees. They are setting employment policy for state agencies under the direct control of the governor, not statute via the legislative bodies.”

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A spokesperson for Brownback, however, disagreed with Witt's accusation of hypocrisy. “The Governor rescinded an Executive Order that unilaterally, and without engaging the people’s elected representatives, established additional ‘protected class rights’ for state employees,” Eileen Hawley told LifeSiteNews. “Through the Governor’s Executive Order 15-02, State employees are protected by the same civil rights afforded to all Kansans – that they will not be discriminated against based on race, color, gender, religion, national origin, ancestry or age.”

Regarding Witt’s point about veterans and the disabled, Hawley said the difference between the new policy and the one by Sebelius is that “the Governor is not expanding civil rights or creating a new protected class. He is simply encouraging state agencies to reach out to and hire our nation’s veterans and individuals with disabilities.”

While he agreed with Hawley, Kloster took a different tack. “He is not required to put everything in one basket,” said Kloster. “There are a lot of reasons,” he said, why any governor would choose to enact Executive Orders, and that choosing who to protect or not “is not hypocritical at all.”

Kloster said that if Equality Kansas and other groups want to lobby for extra protection through the legislature “more power to them. But what they shouldn't try to do is suggest ill will where there is none.”

However, he also said action on this matter by the legislature would impinge upon the power of the executive branch in Kansas, and could lead to a state Supreme Court challenge.

The governor can protect whomever he wishes with Executive Orders, according to Kloster, from “gays, lesbians, veterans, or underwater basket weavers. Presumably, he can do whatever category he wants.”

AFA’s Cosby said Gov. Brownback “has stood where the Constitution of Kansas is, and he has stood where his conviction is. That's kind of rare, to not shy away.”