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.