11:00am

Mon August 1, 2011
Eastern and Central Kentucky

Optimism over Berea's Fairness Ordinance

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.