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Fairness Coalition Launches Ad Campaign Across Kentucky

The Kentucky Fairness Coalition launched a television and web ad campaign Wednesday aimed at raising awareness over the state’s lack of anti-discrimination protections for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender citizens.

The 30-second spot features residents highlighting a survey that shows 83 percent of registered voters support of civil rights protections for LGBT individuals in housing and employment. Gay rights leaders have argued the poll demonstrates the gulf between public opinion and state law.

In Kentucky, only three cities have so-called Fairness laws barring discrimination and the group says man people may still be fired from their jobs, denied housing or kicked out of private businesses based on their perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

Check it out:

The commercial will air initially in central Kentucky, including Richmond and Berea, where there is a continued fight in passing local Fairness legislation. The ads will then move into western and eastern parts of the commonwealth in the Hopkinsville, Hazard and Whitesburg area.

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Fairness Group Says Berea Protections Would Not Be Costly

The group Bereans for Fairness has released a set of predictions about what would happen if the city banned discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

The Berea City Council is considering creating a human rights commission and tasking it with enforcing a fairness law. Berea would become the fourth Kentucky city to do so, following Louisville, Lexington and Covington.

Opponents of the measure, including the city’s mayor, often cite the difficulty and cost of enforcing such regulations. But the Bereans for Fairness report looks at existing enforcement and concludes that a Berea Human Rights Commission would not be very busy with LGBT cases. It estimates that there would be one complaint every two years, with one out of every ten requiring an administrative hearing. Given that, the report concludes that enforcement would cost about $750 per year.

The Mayor of Berea did not return a request for comment.

To see the report, click here.

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Berea Mayor’s Opposition Won’t Stop Push for Fairness Law

The head of the Louisville Fairness Campaign says the Mayor of Berea’s opposition to a fairness ordinance in that city won’t stop the efforts to expand protections in Kentucky.

The Fairness Campaign is trying to get small cities to pass laws blocking discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Director Chris Hartman says that could tip public opinion in favor of a statewide law.

Berea is close. The city council is debating whether to create a human rights commission to enforce current anti-discrimination laws. The next step is to expand protections for LGBT residents. But the mayor opposes the expansion, arguing that the commission would not be able to enforce a law that doesn’t exist on a statewide level.

“You know it took almost a decade to pass the law here in Louisville once the Fairness Campaign was founded,” says Hartman. “We’ve been at this in Berea for only a handful of months. It would’ve been wonderful had the ordinance passed within the first month or the first two months but we’re not naive here.”

The group Bereans for Fairness will release a report on the potential benefits of a fairness ordinance this week.

“There is certainly the potential that a combined Madison County ordinance could come to the fore at some point in time,” says Hartman. “So there are many options, all of which will be fully explored.”

Currently, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have fairness laws.

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Fairness Campaign Director Confident Berea Will Pass Anti-Discrimination Law

The Berea, Kentucky City Council will meet tomorrow. No discussion of two pending anti-discrimination laws is on the agenda, but gay rights activists say the panel is moving closer to passing measures protecting LGBT residents.

The Louisville Fairness Campaign has been instrumental in supporting an ordinance that would make it illegal to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity in Berea. Last month, a proposal for a city Human Rights Commission was introduced but it did not include any language saying the commission would investigate discrimination against LGBT residents.

“The human rights commission [bill] has been written with the ability to adopt sexual orientation and gender identity sexual orientation protections if…when the City of Berea does,” says Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman. “They would actually be unable to just write sexual orientation and gender identity protections into the human rights commission formation itself, I believe. They would still have to be two stand-alone bills.”

Hartman is confident the fairness ordinance will be introduced soon. The Fairness Campaign plans to continue supporting similar measures in small cities to tip public opinion toward a statewide law.

“The only way to pass a statewide law is to garner grassroots support at the local level,” says Hartman. “Then and only then will state representatives from those areas be compelled to vote for an anti-discrimination fairness law that covers the entire state.

But another LGBT group is against the plan. Jordan Palmer of the Kentucky Equality Federation says city laws put extra stress on local governments to enforce the measures.

“Whereas if it’s a law that encompasses the entire commonwealth it goes through the Kentucky Coalition on Human Rights and that’s an independent state agency that’s heavily funded,” he says. “We continue to focus our efforts on a state level with the Kentucky House and Senate instead of the local level.”

Only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have fairness laws.

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After Months, Berea Still Taking “First Step” on Human Rights Commission

Despite months of meetings on a proposed fairness ordinance and human rights commission, members of the Berea city council still say they’re taking the “first step” on the issue.

In May, the council first considered passing an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation and creating a commission to educate the public. A subcommittee was formed to research and inform the rest of the council on the two ideas.

Some expected the council would vote on the ordinance last month, but that didn’t happen. Instead, the subcommittee held two public forums and about eight meetings.  Tuesday night, the subcommittee will present their findings on a human rights commission to the council.  But committee member Truman Fields says there will not be a vote on whether to actually form the commission.

“We’re getting a lot of material, talked to a lot of people,” Fields said. “We’re going to do something pretty soon.  No, I don’t think we’re going too slow.”

The council will only discuss the human rights commission Tuesday. Two such discussions are required before a vote on an ordinance.

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Berea Delays Making Decision on Fairness Ordinance

On Tuesday night, the Berea City Council announced it will take longer than expected to come to a decision about the possibility of a city fairness ordinance.  The council has held public forums on the ordinance, which would prohibit discrimination in the workplace and housing market due to sexual orientation and gender identity.

“It’s a very serious issue,” says Diane Kerby, who serves on the council.  “One that deserves as much time as it needs to make sure that we’re making the right decision and that we consider all the various comments and support.”

Chris Hartman’s Fairness Campaign has lobbied for the ordinance.  Although the decision will be delayed, he says he isn’t dismayed by the announcement.

“I’m not concerned that it’s not going to happen,” he says.  “Certainly I want the city to be certain that they’re moving in the right direction.  It’s just the legislative process sometimes takes longer than I’d like.”

Kerby characterizes the public’s opinion as split, with passionate voices on both sides.  She says the council will put off making a decision for as long as necessary and will use this time to consult legal experts.

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

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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Equality Federation Planning Demonstration in Hazard, Lawsuit Unlikely

The Kentucky Equality Federal will move forward with a demonstration tomorrow in Hazard, even though they’ve largely made peace with city officials.

The demonstration stems from an alleged act of discrimination last week. A city employee told two gay men, who are also developmentally disabled, to leave the public pool, reportedly because they were gay. KEF president Jordan Palmer says the mayor and other Hazard officials have apologized, and his organization is not planning any legal action against the city.

“The only thing that we’re going forward with is we’re demanding that this person be reassigned to another area of city government. We have to show compassion, even though he didn’t show compassion when he threw them out. But if we don’t show compassion, we’re no better than he is,” he says.

Palmer says if the organization for the mentally challenged that took the men to the pool or the men’s parents want to sue, the KEF’s legal team will provide assistance.

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Advocates Say Hazard Allegations Reminder of Need for Fairness Law

Advocates for protection for gay Kentuckians say a recent incident in Hazard further underscores the need for updated civil rights laws.

Two gay men, who are also developmentally challenged, were with the group Mending Hearts at the public pool in the Hazard Pavilion. One man reportedly sat on the other’s knee and put his arm around his partner. They were then told to leave. Mending Hearts representatives say workers told them gay people weren’t allowed to swim in the pool. Others say the two were kicked out for violating the policy against public displays of affection.

But regardless of which story is true, ACLU of Kentucky director Michael Aldridge says this is a case to watch. He doesn’t have an opinion on the matter, but he says even if the two were discriminated against, prosecution would likely be impossible. There is no law in Hazard against discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Currently about 25 percent of Kentuckians are protected in Louisville, Lexington and Covington and those counties. But you never know where the next case of discrimination is going to pop up,” he says. “We get calls all the time from individuals outside of protected areas and often times, unfortunately, we have to tell them there’s very little we can do when they’re outside of a protected area.”

Only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have fairness laws on the books, and various organizations are pushing for more local ordinances and a statewide law.

And the mayor of Hazard has apologized for the incident, which is currently being investigated.

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Alleged Discrimination at Hazard Pool Sparks Investigation

Several parties are investigating an alleged act of discrimination in Hazard, Kentucky.

The two men, who also have developmental disabilities, say they were told to leave the public pool in the Hazard Pavilion because they were a couple. Others, however, say the two were making public displays of affection, which aren’t allowed at all in the pavilion.

“If they’re going to have any type of regulation which prohibits public displays of affection, it needs to be applied uniform throughout and not applied to gay men or lesbian women,” says  Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer. The KEF chapter that covers Hazard is considering protesting.

City attorney Paul Collins says it’s not yet clear whether the men were discriminated against or were violating pool rules.

“We have reached no conclusions about any of the allegations. We are only beginning to investigate this matter. I specifically have had no opportunity to speak with the individuals who are making the allegations…yet,” he says.

The Fairness Campaign has declined to comment until the details become clearer. However, the president says if the allegations are true, it’s further evidence that a statewide anti-discrimination law is needed. Currently, only Louisville, Lexington and Covington have laws blocking discrimination based on sexual orientation.

The parties involved did not return a request for comment.