City of Hazard Releases Report, Suspends Employee Following Allegations of Discrimination

by Gabe Bullard on June 18, 2011

The City of Hazard, Kentucky has released its final report and action plan following allegations that two men were asked to leave a public pool because of their sexual orientation. (Click to read the report and the action plan)

The two men, who are also developmentally disabled, were with the care organization Mending Hearts at the Hazard Pavilion. They were asked to leave the pavilion after engaging in public displays of affection. One man sat on the other’s knee and they reportedly hugged and kissed. The representative from Mending Hearts, Laura Quillen, says the men were asked to leave because they were gay. The employee who told them to leave, Kim Haynes, insists the men were violating the unwritten policy against excessive public displays of affection.

The report from the City of Hazard shows equally disparate accounts of the event, told through interviews with the parties involved. There is still disagreement over why the men were told to leave, though both Quillen and Haynes agree that Haynes told Quillen she should read the Bible more often. The two disagree over whether the comment meant Haynes doesn’t tolerate homosexuality or that he was suggesting the men be more modest in their affection.

While the report is inconclusive over the actual events, the incident has spurred a number of changes at the Hazard Pavilion. First, a sign will be posted making it clear that no one shall be discriminated against based on sexual orientation, race, age or a number of other criteria. Further, the rule against public displays of affection will be put in writing and on display in the pavilion. Haynes will be suspended without pay for five days. He and his coworkers will also have to complete a training course on non-discrimination laws and policies. Finally, the city will conduct a review of the Hazard Pavilion staff and make any necessary changes to management.

The Mayor of Hazard has apologized for the incident, and the Kentucky Equality Federation is not planning to pursue legal action. The group did plan a demonstration in Hazard, though, and is calling on Haynes to be reassigned to another part of city government.

The KEF, the Fairness Campaign and the Kentucky chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union have all said the incident is a reminder of the need for a statewide law banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. The Fairness Campaign and the ACLU, however, did not plan demonstrations or investigations into the incident, and have declined to comment on the facts of the case or give an opinion on the allegations.

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