Berea Could Become the Fourth Kentucky City With a Fairness Ordinance

On Tuesday night, the Berea City Council will hold the second and final public hearing on an ordinance that would protect gay and transgender individuals from discrimination in housing and employment.  After the forum, the council will decide whether or not they will take a vote on the ordinance.

The Fairness Campaign has been working for months to see the measure passed. Chris Hartman is the group’s director.

“We feel extraordinarily positive about the progress in Berea,” he said.   “Just last Thursday, local supporters — business leaders, religious leaders, students, teachers, everyone — came out to show that support to get that ordinance passed there.”

Berea would join Lexington, Louisville, and Covington as cities that have fairness ordinances. If the council decides to take the bill to a vote, it will most likely occur within a month.

Local News Noise & Notes

Berea Residents Debate Fairness Law at Public Forum

A number of residents gathered Tuesday night to sound off on a not-yet-drafted fairness ordinance being considered by the Berea City Council. The measure will extend civil rights protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered residents.

In Kentucky, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington currently have laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in housing and employment.

Several opponents came to the meeting, saying there are no examples of discrimination against LGBT residents and the law is a political agenda that extends “special rights” to certain groups.

Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says the public forum showed there is still discrimination against LGBT residents in parts of the state and the legislation is necessary.

“If there were no intolerance in Berea, anyone who says that was not at the meeting last night because there was plenty of hate, vitriol and intolerance being spewed in that meeting. There always is when these debates come up. We are not looking for special rights…we’re looking for equal rights, we’re looking for fairness,” he says.

The committee made up of three council members will hold two more public forums before deciding whether to bring the measure before the full city council.

On WFPL’s Here and Now, we interviewed Hartman about the fairness movement in Berea, other smaller cities and statewide.

Audio MP3
Local News

Berea City Council Considering Fairness Law

Members of the Berea City Council will hold a public forum Tuesday to consider amending a local ordinance that would extend civil rights protections to residents based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.

In Kentucky, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have those laws on the books and gay rights groups have tried unsuccessfully to push similar bills in other cities.  If approved, the Berea ordinance would make it illegal to discriminate against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says the public meeting is a positive sign that lawmakers in the central Kentucky town are catching up with a recent survey that shows the majority of Kentuckians are against discrimination.

“The local communities in Berea and throughout the rest of the state we know empirically are in favor of these types of discrimination protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Kentuckians,” he says. “However, the legislative bodies in these areas and in the state simply will not as swiftly as public opinion changes, pass the laws to keep up with them.”

Local News Politics

Fairness Campaign Looking Toward Berea

The Fairness Campaign’s efforts to expand anti-discrimination laws in Richmond, Kentucky have stalled, but the organization is still focusing on other cities.

In Kentucky, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington currently have laws banning discrimination based on sexual orientation in housing and employment. The Fairness Campaign has spent months working to make Richmond the 4th city to pass such a law. But director Chris Hartman says the efforts have stalled, and there’s no estimate on when Richmond lawmakers may vote on a fairness ordinance.

“Things are moving along there, but, surprisingly, it looks like Berea is better poised to pass a local anti-discrimination fairness law than is Richmond, and we expect that once Berea passes their law, Berea may well fall next,” he says.

Hartman says the campaign’s work in cities is part of a multi-faceted approach. The campaign is also pushing for expanded protections and rights on the state and federal levels.

Local News Politics

Fairness Campaign Director Says Advocacy Should Continue in Cities and States, Despite Federal Advances

Louisville Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman says it’s important for organizations like his to work on multiple levels against legislation restricting same-sex marriage and civil unions.

A proposed constitutional ban on same-sex marriage and civil unions has cleared a major hurdle in the Indiana General Assembly. The measure must be passed again by the legislature in two years and then by the public before it becomes official. Hartman says such legislation goes against shifts in public opinion, and it may go against trends in federal government.

“I think that as the United States Constitution gets looked at, as the Defense of Marriage Act gets challenged, that it may well come to pass that all bans on gay marriage become unconstitutional and are stripped away,” he says.

Despite any progress on the federal level, Hartman says advocates should continue to support fairness laws on the city and state levels. The Fairness Campaign supports a repeal of Kentucky’s ban on same-sex marriage. The campaign is also working with city lawmakers in Berea and Richmond to pass fairness ordinances akin to Louisville’s.

Local News Politics

Fairness Survey Shows Shifting Attitudes In Kentucky

According to a new survey, most Kentuckians support protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens.

The Fairness Coalition has released the results of the first survey on the topic in six years. (PDF of the results) The poll, which the coalition commissioned, shows majority support for protections from discrimination in housing and employment and the extension of hospital visitation rights to LGBT partners.

That support has increased since the last such survey. Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says that may be related to the rise in responders who say they know LGBT individuals.

“As more people find that they have friends and family members that are LGBT, certainly their opinions will continue to morph into a more positive attitude,” he says.

Hartman says the study also shows a disconnect between public opinion and the law. Only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have fairness laws on the books. And Hartman says the campaign and the Fairness Coalition are pushing other cities and the General Assembly to pass similar legislation.

“We hope that they will both feed into each other, that the efforts on the statewide level will increase the efforts locally, and then as more local communities pass laws, the state legislature will eventually tip in favor,” he says.

Hartman says he thinks there’s still time in the current legislative session to pass anti-discrimination laws, but the push will continue into next year if necessary.

“We will begin sharing the survey results with lawmakers, as we do with everyone across the state this next week as we launch a paid advertising campaign advertising this survey’s findings,” he says.

Local News Politics

Fairness Campaign Director Hopes For “Domino Effect” After DADT Repeal

Members of the Kentucky General Assembly are preparing for the 2011 session. And the head of Louisville’s Fairness Campaign hopes the legislature will take a cue from the U.S. Congress on one issue.

Chris Hartman is hoping the repeal of the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy will cause a domino effect that leads to more legislation protecting gay and lesbian rights. For instance, Hartman would like to see a law passed in Kentucky that bars employers from discriminating based on sexual orientation.

“2011 is a new year in the state legislature and they will have a statewide anti-discrimination fairness law before them again and I hope that they’ll consider it again this year,” he says.

The national repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” took several months, and implementation will take several more. Hartman says the push for more fairness legislation on the local level will be difficult.

Local News

Fairness Campaign Hosts Forum On AZ Immigration Law

By Sheila Ash

The Louisville Fairness Campaign has scheduled a community conversation this (Wed) evening focusing on Arizona’s controversial immigration law.

Director Chris Hartman’s group and other organizations have been speaking out against the law, which they believe is discriminatory.

“The Fairness Campaign is largely seen as an organization that just deals with lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender equal rights. But really we feel that all forms of prejudice in America are connected and that Arizona’s immigration law and the type of racial profiling and that sort of discrimination is equally as destructive,” he said.

The Arizona law would let police officers check a person’s immigration status while enforcing other laws, but most of its controversial sections have been blocked pending the outcome of a federal lawsuit.

The local discussion called the “A to Z’s of Prejudice is open to the public. It will be at 6:30 p.m. in the Centennial Room of the Main Library at 301 York Street.

Local News Next Louisville

Mayoral Forum Set For Tuesday Evening

At least eight of the candidates for Louisville mayor will take part in a forum Tuesday night, sponsored by ten local social justice organizations.

Chris Hartman with the Fairness Campaign says the event begins at 6:00pm at the Metro United Way Building at 334 East Broadway.

“Each of the ten co-sponsoring organizations has pre-sumitted one question that they’d like the candidate to answer based on the social justice issue on which the organization works. And then the audience will also have the opportunity to submit questions and we will ask a few of those as well,” he said.

Other sponsors include the ACLU of Kentucky, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth and Women in Transition.

The event is free and open to the public.