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.”


Western Kentucky University is taking steps to create places where LGBT students will feel comfortable talking about gender and sexual identity.

Two Safe Zone trainings are being held Tuesday, Oct. 11.  

WKU counselor Brian Lee says the goal of the trainings is to educate employees, students, and community members about creating an environment that’s open and accepting toward LGBT individuals.

Ryland Barton

Lexington Mayor and U.S. Senate candidate Jim Gray says the Kentucky Farm Bureau should change its policies that oppose same-sex marriage and other LGBTQ issues.

“I think the Farm Bureau needs to adjust and adapt to the times, and that means adjusting their policies,” Gray said after wading through a crowd of pro-LGBTQ protesters outside the Kentucky Farm Bureau’s annual Ham Breakfast event in Louisville on Thursday morning.

A Democrat, Gray is openly gay and running against Republcian Sen. Rand Paul in his bid for reelection.

The Kentucky Fairness Campaign, an LGBTQ advocacy organization, has demonstrated outside of the annual event for years, opposing the Farm Bureau’s stances against same-sex marriage, domestic benefits for same-sex couples and abortion.

J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin’s administration is suing the federal government to block a rule that says medical providers and insurance companies can’t discriminate against transgender patients. The states of Nebraska, Wisconsin, Kansas and Texas, along with religious provider groups, filed suit Tuesday.

The federal rule is intended to prevent health care providers from refusing care for transgender patients, and for insurers to do away with bans on covering gender reassignment services, including hormone therapy or surgery.

The lawsuit was filed in the Northern District of Texas, under the same judge who on Monday issued an injunction barring federal government agencies from taking action against school districts that don’t allow transgender students to use the bathroom that corresponds with their gender identity rather than their sex at birth.

In a statement, Bevin said the rule was an infringement on Kentuckians’ constitutional rights.

Jaison Gardner

Gov. Matt Bevin is praising a federal judge’s preliminary injunction that blocks a federal rule requiring public schools to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their choosing.

Kentucky is one of 13 states suing the federal government over the policy.

“We are pleased the federal court has put a halt to the Obama administration’s absurd proposals for bathroom and locker room policy in our public schools,” Bevin said in a statement Monday. “The court’s decision recognizes the danger of this governmental overreach and reaffirms the right of local control.”

Bevin joined Kentucky in the multi-state lawsuit in late May, saying that the new rule violates the 10th Amendment, which concerns powers delegated to the states and the federal government.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

Months after the Obama administration advised school districts that transgender students should be given access to bathrooms based on their gender identity, a federal judge in Texas has blocked the guidance from going into effect — for now.

U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor has granted a preliminary, nationwide injunction in response to a lawsuit filed by Texas and a number of other states.

As we've reported, the lawsuit argues that the guidance from the White House would turn schools "into laboratories for a massive social experiment."

The preliminary injunction would mean that, until that lawsuit works its way through the courts, the "status quo" would be maintained and the guidance could not be considered enforceable.

ACLU Settles Lawsuit Over Students' Right to Free Speech

Aug 18, 2016
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The American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has settled a free speech lawsuit sparked by a student's T-shirt.

The Tennessean reports that the federal lawsuit was filed last November on behalf of a Richland High School senior who was censored by the school system after she wore a shirt to the school supporting equality for lesbian and gay people.

The shirt read: "Some People Are Gay, Get Over It."

The lawsuit said the school's principal prohibited the student from wearing that shirt or any other shirt referencing lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender rights because it might provoke other students.

However, a U.S. District judge wrote a preliminary injunction defending students' rights to wear pro-LGBT apparel to school as long as it does not disrupt the school environment.

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.

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Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender advocates say heated political rhetoric and policies dealing with sexual orientation in recent years are partly to blame for violence like the Orlando shootings at an LGBT night club.

Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville, said the rhetoric has created an atmosphere that allowed the shooting to happen.

“I feel like everyone who has stood against LGBT rights is in a way complicit in the atmosphere that’s been created that suggests LGBT people are ‘less than,’ that they deserve to be victims of violence or prejudice or discrimination,” Hartman said.

Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 others at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando early Sunday morning. Authorities are still investigating the motive of the attacks and whether the rampage was fueled by Islamic extremism, homophobia or some combination.

Drew Angerer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Gay and lesbian activists gather at the White House on Thursday for a celebration marking LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) Pride Month. It's become an annual event, tied to the monthlong commemoration of the Stonewall riots, which helped launch the modern gay liberation movement.

President Obama's years in office have seen a flowering of gay and lesbian rights, culminating a year ago when the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

"Progress on this journey often comes in small increments, sometimes two steps forward, one step back," Obama said during a Rose Garden celebration hours after the high court's decision was announced. "And then sometimes, there are days like this, when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt."

Activists File Suit Challenging Tennessee Counseling Law

Jun 8, 2016
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Two gay rights activists have filed a lawsuit challenging a new Tennessee law that lets therapists decline to see patients based on religious values and personal principles.

Bleu Copas is an Anderson County man who says he was discharged from the Army under "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." Caleb Laieski is an activist from Virginia. Their lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Anderson County Chancery Court. It claims the new law targets gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, violating the right to equal treatment guaranteed by the Tennessee Constitution.

Gov. Bill Haslam's spokeswoman, Jennifer Donnals, says the governor's office is unaware of any lawsuits challenging the counseling law and has not seen the Anderson County suit.

The American Counseling Association last month canceled a planned conference in Nashville because of the law.

Elaine Thompson/AP

Texas, joined by a number of other states, has filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration in response to its directive that public schools allow students to use the bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.

The plaintiffs include Alabama, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Utah, Georgia, the governor of Maine and the Arizona Department of Education.

The lawsuit, filed Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, says the federal government has "conspired to turn workplaces and educational settings across the country into laboratories for a massive social experiment, flouting the democratic process, and running roughshod over commonsense policies protecting children and basic privacy rights."

The LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign called the move a "shameful attack on transgender youth."

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

The Tennessee chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union is asking the federal government to intervene over a school district's policy prohibiting transgender students from using restrooms corresponding to their gender identity.

A letter from the ACLU asks the U.S. Department of Education to require that the school system in Sumner County make accommodations for transgender students.

The letter was written on behalf of a high school student who is a transgender girl.

Officials told the student's family that she would be disciplined if she continued to use the girls' restroom.

An attorney for the school system said in a statement that transgender  students are provided access to private unisex facilities.

Kevin Willis, WKU Public Radio

Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam is questioning the need for a special legislative session related to the bathroom use of transgender public school students.

Some Republican state lawmakers have called for a special session after a directive issued by President Barack Obama's administration that public schools must allow students to use facilities consistent with their gender identity.

Haslam told reporters Wednesday that it's unclear what the strategy or purpose of a special session would be. GOP lawmakers have engaged in a letter-writing campaign since the Obama directive was issued, demanding that the state join lawsuits challenging their implementation.

A Tennessee  bill seeking to require students to use restrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the gender listed on their birth certificates was withdrawn in the waning days of the legislative session last month.

A couple that served as the lead plaintiffs in one of the court cases that prompted last year’s landmark Supreme Court ruling legalizing gay marriage is protesting a decision by the Archdiocese of Louisville to reject parts of their proposed gravestone design.

Greg Bourke and Michael De Leon have been together for 30 years and married in 2004 in Canada. They identify as lifelong practicing Catholics, and last fall, they submitted a proposed headstone design for a joint plot in Louisville’s Saint Michael Cemetery.

The design includes Bourke and De Leon’s names and dates of birth. It also includes an image of a cross, wedding rings and the United States Supreme Court building.

“It means a lot to me to be buried in a Catholic cemetery,” Bourke said. “Saint Michael’s is a stone’s throw from both my grandparents’ homes, and the really important thing is that my parents have cemetery plots they’ve purchased there.”