NEWTON — A presentation regarding equality and anti discrimination law set off a firestorm at Tuesday’s Newton City Commission meeting.

“This is not an action item tonight. I do not have an ordinance prepared,” said Chris Towle, Newton city attorney. “There are a lot of issues with going forward with a nondiscrimination ordinance. It is important for you to know the landscape.”

More information they got, though they are not close to a decision of what an ordinance should have within it or even if the city commission would pass an ordinance if presented.

The issue arose as a discussion item, dedicated to whether the city should create protections for LGBTQ individuals and what those protections should be.

Nearly two hours of conversation and public comments ensued. There were cases made in favor of moving forward with the ordinance, and those who do not believe Newton should move forward with creating a protected class or mechanism for complaints to be filed at the local level.

“This has been a hard-fought battle,” said Cristina Murphy, a transgender woman who ran for city commission last year. “Here in south-central Kansas there is no town that has even looked at a nondiscrimination. We can be the city that leads the way in south-central Kansas.”

That battle, as she put it, is far from over. The rest of the evening, the commissioners heard from those who have lived without protections — the same protections that are granted federally for race, religion, national origin, sex, age, physical disability, mental disability or veteran statuses.

“As an Army veteran, I fought for the very same things that we are fighting for today. Times have changed. In the 1960s we fought for the black. Before that it was the women. Now it is the LGBTQ community,” Murphy said.

The commission also heard from members of the public who believe it is not the city’s role to create those protections — and those who do not believe there should be protections for the LGBTQ community.

The commission took no action Tuesday, nor was it scheduled to do so. The commission reviewed information compiled by the city legal department about similar ordinances.

“You received a request a couple of months ago that the city should consider a nondiscrimination ordinance and you asked staff to report back and have that discussion,” Towle said. “My goal tonight is to give an overview of current law, talk about the city's role in legislating against discrimination.”