fairness ordinance

Rhonda J. Miller

A Bowling Green LGBT rights advocate told the Bowling Green City Commission that it’s time to get in step with communities across the nation and pass a fairness ordinance.

Supporters want members of the LGBT community protected from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Western Kentucky University legal history expert Patricia Minter points to the Municipal Equality Index released Oct. 17 by the Human Rights Campaign.  The index rates LGBT inclusion in cities across the nation.

Bowling Green got 17 out of a possible 100, the worst score of the eight Kentucky cities rated. Minter says that low HRC rating casts a shadow over the city in both human and business terms.

“HRC is a well-respected civil rights organization, and what we know is that Fortune 500 companies, S&P companies, companies that are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, all look at HRC indexes when they’re deciding where they’re going to relocate, where they will look for employees.”

Jacob Ryan

Liberal state lawmakers have for 16 years pushed for a bill that would amend Kentucky’s civil rights code to protect people from discrimination in the workplace, housing and other areas based on their sexual orientation.

Dubbed the fairness bill, the measure has gotten considerable attention from the press and advocates each year it’s been proposed, but it hasn’t ever gotten traction in the legislature.

But in the wake of the shootings at a gay nightclub in Orlando last month, and as several states —including Kentucky — sue the federal government over bathroom guidelines for transgender students in public schools, it doesn’t look like support for the measure is growing in the commonwealth.

The fairness bill has never received an official vote in committee — one of the first hurdles a bill has to overcome on the way to becoming a law — even in the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. House Speaker Greg Stumbo, a Democrat from Prestonsburg, co-sponsored the legislation in 2014, but this year he has said he hasn’t given it much consideration.

Efforts are underway to make Elizabethtown the ninth Kentucky city with a fairness ordinance.

The city council will hear a presentation later this month from the Fairness Campaign. Director Chris Hartman says a similar effort failed three years ago, but he’s still optimistic.

"Often times it is a tough road to convince elected officials to pick up what they imagine is a controversial issue," Hartman said.  "It's a different city council than the one in place in 2012 so we expect the response might be different now."

The ordinance would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment, and public accomodations based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

Midway became the most recent city to approve a fairness ordinance in June.

City of Owensboro, KY

Kentucky's fourth largest city began its journey Tuesday night toward joining seven others that don't discriminate against people based on their sexual orientation or identity.

The Owensboro Human Rights Commission presented a proposed ordinance, with director Sylvia Coleman recommending its consideration and approval. In fact, all five members of the City Commission expressed support Tuesday night for the fairness ordinance, prompting Mayor Ron Payne to instruct the city's legal staff to bring it to the commission for future consideration.

The Fairness Campaign's Dora James says Owensboro officials have been working toward the ordinance since December. She says it all started with a simple chat between a campaign member and a city commissioner.

If Owensboro approves the ordinance after a first reading on the 19th and a second reading next month, it would become the eighth Kentucky community with such a law.

City of Danville

Danville’s city manager says unresolved legal questions forced the city’s proposed “fairness ordinance” to be tabled Monday night.  Ron Scott says the measure, which would make it illegal for businesses to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity, has sparked some intense debate. The ordinance would pertain to employment, public accommodations and housing. 

“The City Commission has heard and the city staff has heard from a variety of folks on both sides of the issue, those in favor of and those against,” said Scott “Those include church groups as well as businesses, in terms of some expressing opposition to and some expressing support for.”

Scott says a poll conducted by Centre College revealed support for a fairness ordinance among Danville residents stood in the “upper 70 percent” range. Six other Kentucky cities including Louisville have implemented similar measures. 

A workshop has been scheduled for April 28th so the city attorney can review the outstanding legal questions revolving around how the ordinance would comply with the state’s Civil Rights laws. 

A statewide gay rights organization says the Shelbyville City Council is being asked to consider an anti-discrimination ordinance. The Fairness Coalition says some residents of the town of around 15,000 will ask the council Thursday night to consider the measure.