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.
The legal counsel hired by Gov. Steve Beshear argues out-of-state gay marriages should not be recognized, because doing so does not promote natural procreation between a man and a woman and therefore threatens Kentucky's economic stability.
The legal brief was filed as the state appeals a federal judge’s ruling from February, striking down part of Kentucky’s constitutional ban on gay marriage. Chris Hartman, director of the Kentucky Fairness Campaign says the “procreation” argument is one that was used a generation ago.
“It’s an embarrassing and ludicrous regurgitation of some really archaic talking points," said Hartman. "It’s shocking that the governor would allow the legal team to use them.”
Judge John Heyburn’s ruling earlier this year declared Kentucky’s gay marriage ban violated the equal protection clause. The brief filed by Beshear’s legal team argues that because same-sex partners can’t naturally procreate, they aren’t entitled to equal treatment under the state’s marriage laws.
Seeking the passage of three pieces of legislation protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, more than 200 people rallied on Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda with Kentucky's Fairness Campaign.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Democrat of Louisville, is sponsoring a bill that would prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. The bill, along with Senate Bill 28, would also make it illegal for landlords and real estate agents to discriminate on those grounds.
"I think the realistic hope is that we might get the first ever hearing on the anti-discrimination fairness law in House Judiciary this year," Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman said. "That's really what we're gunning for. Even if it's an informational only hearing it would be the first time they've ever discussed the bill on the record."