LGBT

WKU Public Radio

Tennessee’s Attorney General is warning that the state could lose federal funding if a controversial bathroom bill clears in the General Assembly. 

The bill would require Tennessee students to use bathrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate.  Supporters say the legislation is necessary to protect the privacy of students.  Opponents argue the bill is discriminatory. 

State Attorney General Herbert Slattery issued an opinion Monday saying the bill would violate Title IX, which means the state could lose millions of dollars in federal funding. 

The Tennessean reports that Governor Bill Haslam and the state Education Department have raised similar concerns, but the Governor has not said if he would veto the legislation should it reach his desk.  The bill has so far cleared a House committee.

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Kentucky lawmakers have given their final blessing to creating one marriage license form for gay and straight couples in an effort to defuse the state's ongoing controversy over gay marriage.

The proposal is a response to Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, who spent five days in jail last year for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples based on her religious beliefs.

Davis said she could not issue the licenses because they had her name on them.

The Republican-led Senate gave the bill its final passage Friday, sending it to Gov. Matt Bevin.

Under the final bill, a marriage license applicant would have the option of checking "bride," ''groom" or "spouse" beside their name. The form would not have the clerk's name on it.

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Kentucky businesses could invoke their religious beliefs to refuse service to gay, lesbian or transgender customers under a bill approved by the state Senate.

The measure passed the Republican-led Senate on a 22-16 vote Tuesday. It’s a response to the U.S. Supreme Court ruling last summer that effectively legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Republican Sen. Albert Robinson said his bill seeks to protect businesses from civil damages and legal fees for refusing to participate in same-sex marriage celebrations due to conscientious objections.

Democratic Sen. Reginald Thomas said the bill promotes “bigotry and hatred.”

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, told The Courier-Journal the bill is “extremely dangerous.”

“If anything, this encourages people to discriminate,” he said.

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Local ordinances that protect Kentuckians from sexual orientation-based discrimination by businesses would be rendered irrelevant by bill that passed a Senate committee Thursday.

The bill could have implications for an ongoing lawsuit against a Lexington apparel company that refused on religious grounds to print T-shirts requested by organizers of the city’s gay pride parade.

Stan Cave, an attorney for the conservative Family Foundation, said business owners shouldn’t be forced to grant services if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

“A person who’s exercising their right of conscience shouldn’t have to face bankruptcy because of the punitive measures that are being brought to bear through contempt and jail time and things of that nature,” Cave said.

The bill would protect businesses from being sued or having to pay punitive damages for violating local anti-discrimination, or fairness, ordinances based on sexual orientation. Those laws protect lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people from discrimination by businesses and in accommodations.

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The Kentucky Supreme Court has ruled that a gay woman may proceed with her efforts to obtain joint custody of a girl borne by her ex-partner when they were still together.

The court issued its ruling Thursday.

The woman, identified as Amy, had asked the court to block adoption proceedings by her ex-partner's husband. The girl's mother became pregnant with the help of a sperm donor. She gave birth in 2006 when she and Amy were still a couple.

The case is among several across the country involving wrenching personal questions about what it means to be a parent under today's ever-changing definition of family in the eyes of the law.

LRC Public Information

A statewide anti-discrimination law will likely not be voted on in the Kentucky state legislature this year.

The House Judiciary Committee had a public hearing on the bill Wednesday. It would mandate people could not lose their job or their housing based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

The committee did not vote on the bill because Democratic state Rep. Mary Lou Marzian of Louisville said it did not have the votes to pass. Marzian said her bill was likely two or three years away from getting a vote on the floor of the state House of Representatives.

Marzian criticized Republicans and some conservative Democrats as "homophobes" for opposing the bill. Republican state Rep. Stan Lee and Democratic House Speaker Greg Stumbo called her criticisms unfair.

WKU

Efforts to expand Kentucky’s Civil Rights Act are getting a boost from a Western Kentucky University legal scholar.

History Professor and Constitutional law expert Patricia Minter is testifying Wednesday in Frankfort in support of a bill that would offer greater legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

The measure would expand the reach of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to cover LGBT individuals.

Minter says Kentucky’s LGBT community shouldn’t face discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations.

“It won’t be long before Americans all over the country will look back at using sexual orientation or gender identity as discriminatory categories, and wonder what people were thinking,” Minter said.  

The Kentucky House Judiciary committee will hear testimony regarding the bill Wednesday at noon eastern.

Minter acknowledges the bill faces an uphill climb in this year’s legislature. Opponents of protecting LGBT individuals under the state’s Civil Rights Act say such a move would infringe upon the religious beliefs of employers and landlords.

The Senate version of the bill is called the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Act. The measure is backed by nearly 200 employers who have formed the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition. The group argues that protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination would make the Bluegrass Stare more attractive to businesses who favor progressive values, as well as workers who want to live in places seen as welcoming to the LGBT community.

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A bill filed in the Kentucky Senate would offer legal protections to lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.

The measure is called  the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Act, and would add the LGBT community to those covered under the state’s Civil Rights Act.

The Courier-Journal reports the bill’s six Senate sponsors are all from either Louisville or Lexington, and include five Democrats and one Republican.

Similar legislation has been filed in the Kentucky House.

Read What's In Senate Bill 176, the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Act

The effort has the support of nearly 200 Kentucky employers who have formed the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition. It includes large companies, such as Brown-Forman, as well as small, locally owned businesses.

A “Fairness Rally” in support of the legislation is being held at the state capitol rotunda in Frankfort Wednesday afternoon.

The Senate bill's chief sponsor is Morgan McGarvey, D-Louisville.

Laura Ellis

Three advocates for LGBT rights who were arrested last year at the state fair’s Kentucky Farm Bureau Country Ham Breakfast & Auction have filed a lawsuit against the Kentucky State Police.

The suit was filed Monday evening in Jefferson Circuit Court. The plaintiffs are arguing false arrest, First Amendment free speech violation, First Amendment retaliation and malicious prosecution. The suit also seeks punitive damages.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign, and fellow activists Sonja de Vries and Carla Wallace, were arrested in August while protesting at the annual breakfast event, which is considered a staple of the Kentucky State Fair.

The charges were eventually dropped.

Hartman speculated last year that the group may eventually file suit against the state police. In an interview with WFPL Monday evening, he said the lawsuit is a vindication.

Hartman said he’s looking for the suit to send a message that “you really do have to follow the law and practice the law or else there will be penalties involved.”

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A federal judge awarded a team of Kentucky attorneys more than $1 million for their role in the landmark United States Supreme Court case that struck down bans on same-sex marriage.

The state will have to pick up the $1.1 million tab.

The lawsuit was initiated by Louisville couples at first seeking the state to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Later, same-sex couples seeking the ability to be married in Kentucky joined the suit.

In 2014, U.S. District Judge John Heyburn ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional. Attorney General Jack Conway refused to appeal. But former Gov. Steve Beshear hired outside attorneys to continue defending the ban.

The case, and others like it, made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which effectively legalized same-sex marriage last summer.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Simpson ordered Wednesday that the losing party, the state, will have to pay the fees and expenses for attorneys who fought successfully on behalf of Kentucky gay couples.

The plaintiffs attorneys included Laura Landenwich, Dan Canon, Dawn Elliott, Joe Dunman and Shannon Fauver, all based in Louisville.

WKU Public Radio

A Bowling Green group is again seeking expanded protections for the LGBT community.

The Bowling Green Fairness Coalition Tuesday night delivered the signatures of over 1,000 residents asking the city commission to amend the local civil rights ordinance. The group wants to outlaw discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Bowling Green landlord Don Langley was one of three speakers to address the commission on behalf of expanding the city's Fairness Ordinance, which currently bans discrimination based on factors such as race, ethnicity, age, and disability. Langley says his experiences with LGBT renters led him to believe that discriminating against them is wrong.

“They pay their rent on time, they work hard, they have jobs, and they’re tax paying citizens," Langley said after he addressed the commission. "I think they should be treated fairly.”

This is the third time the Fairness Coalition has asked the Bowling Green City Commission to vote on an expanded civil rights ordinance. So far, it hasn’t come up for a vote.

Fairness Campaign

A Kentucky group that advocates for the LGBT community is hoping to expand Bowling Green’s civil rights ordinance.

The Fairness Campaign wants the city to become the ninth in the state to pass a fairness ordinance that would prohibit LGBT individuals from being discriminated against in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

The campaign’s western Kentucky regional organizer, Dora James, says the recent Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage isn’t the last hurdle for LGBT rights.

“There are no state or federal enumerated laws that protect against LGBT discrimination, so a lot of people are surprised to know that it’s 2015, but you can totally be fired from your job, or denied housing, or kicked out of a restaurant or park for being gay or transgender.”

The Bowling Green chapter of the Fairness Campaign is seeking signatures for a petition to present to the Bowling Green city commission in support of a fairness ordinance. They’re also holding an event Thursday night in the city’s downtown called “Love Takes Over: LGBT Fairness on Fountain Square.”

The goal of the event is to get signatures on a petition encouraging city government to add the LGBT community to the current civil rights statute covering the town. Those that sign will get a pin allowing them entrance to several concerts around town, as well as other specials at supportive businesses.

Map Evansville

An online tool with information about Evansville-area businesses and their attitudes towards LGBT customers and employees is looking to expand.

The Map Evansville website is the brainchild of University of Southern Indiana psychology professor Amie McKibban, who asks business owners to fill out a survey, with the results shared online.

McKibban says the recent controversy in the Hoosier State regarding the Religious Freedom Restoration Act has led to a spike in the number of businesses that want to fill out the assessment.

“I think we jumped from 30 businesses to about 71 in a matter of two weeks," the USI professor said.

McKibban and a USI student are struggling to keep the website updated with the amount of new information being sent in.

McKibban is seeking private and corporate support that she says will be used to update the website’s current software and develop a mobile app that can be used by area residents and visitors to learn more about how businesses handle LGBT issues.

“So it’s really easy, if you’re out and about, or if you’re new to the area or visiting the area. You can download the app and find the restaurant you’re looking for, or perhaps a bakery you’re looking for, a clothing store, a place of worship—whatever you’re looking for,” McKibban said.

UPDATE: The bill's sponsor, state Sen. C.B. Embry tells Kentucky Public Radio the Senate will vote Friday on Senate Bill 76. The Fairness Campaign previously indicated the vote would be Thursday.

Director of Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign Chris Hartman says he anticipates the Republican-controlled Senate will pass a bill requiring students to use school bathrooms corresponding with their biological sex, but that it will stall in the Democrat-held state House of Representatives.

Credit Jessica Dockery, Lead Reporter for the The Madisonville Messenger newspaper

The fight for transgender rights continues at Madisonville-North Hopkins High School. Fifteen to 20 students and community members rallied Saturday on the old courthouse lawn in downtown Madisonville. 

Organizers currently have more than 300 signatures on a petition circulating the school. The petition requests teachers call students by their preferred pronouns and to allow students to use bathrooms for the gender of their choosing.  Currently transgender students are asked to use handicap/unisex restrooms. The Madisonville Messenger’s Lead Reporter Jessica Dockery covered the weekend rally.

“The students did have a lot of support it seemed by folks driving by, honking their horns hollering positive things outside of the windows,” said Dockery.  “I didn’t really see any negative reactions from the community while I was there. “

Dockery says the protestors weren’t just from MNHHS. Students from Hopkins County Central High School and some home-schooled students also attended the Saturday rally.

Dockery said the organizers of the rally are trying to promote awareness.

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