A gay rights group in Berea is launching a new advertising campaign Monday to highlight pro-Fairness statements made by members of the city council. Bereans for Fairness took the quotes from an October 2010 candidate survey published in The Berea Citizen. The group contends six of the eight council members support an anti-discrimination law that has stalled in the body over the summer.
Louisville Fairness Campaign Director Chris Hartman says there is support for gay rights among residents and lawmakers in the central Kentucky town, but gay rights advocates have to be patient.
“I continue to be confident that the support in Berea continues to grow, particularly among its residents. And I have faith that the Berea City Council will respond to what the residents are saying as many of them indicated in their quotes that appear in the ad this week. I’m in no way disheartened yet,” he says.
The Berea City Council has been considering creating a local human rights commission, which was first proposed in July. But the panel does not include Fairness protections in employment, housing, and public accommodations on the basis of perceived sexual orientation and gender identity.
For months, gay rights advocates have been pushing for Fairness laws to be adopted in rural parts of the state to help usher in statewide legislation. The cities of Louisville, Lexington and Covington already have local ordiances barring discrimination. A Fairness law was passed in Paducah, but was later repealed by opponents.
During a public hearing on whether to consider a Fairness law, several Berea residents spoke in favor while a dozen denounced the measure.
Bereans for Fairness member Jason Howard says small towns are generally considered more conservative, but there’s a progressive tradition at the heart of Berea that gay rights leaders have been stressing.
“Berea College was founded on integrated education for African-Americans and for women. So there’s really a legacy here in Berea, in this small town that we are proud of and that we feel the Fairness ordinance is connected to that rich legacy,” he says.
The group plans to rally and march on City Hall this Tuesday at 5 p.m. to pressure lawmakers to sponsor and pass a Fairness ordinance.