By Bill Robinson
Only one month remains in the current city commission’s tenure, but despite their lack of success the past two years, advocates of a “Fairness Ordinance” haven’t given up on winning over Richmond’s governing body.
Although repeated appeals since January 2011 have been listened to politely, no action has been taken on the proposal to ban discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people in housing, employment or public accommodations.
Tuesday night’s remarks by two speakers during the commission’s public comment period also was part of stepped-up efforts by the statewide Fairness Campaign.
Actions by Richmond Residents for Fairness and Bereans for Fairness have inspired residents of Bowling Green, Elizabethtown and Shelbyville to launch similar campaigns, Marianne McAdam told the commission. Similar efforts also will be made in Danville and Owensboro, she said.
“The vast majority of Kentuckians,” 83 percent, “agree that everyone should be accorded the opportunity to earn a living, put a roof over their head and eat at their favorite restaurant without fear of being turned away just because of who they are.”
The issue is “deeply personal” to her, McAdam said, “because she recently married a woman legally in New York state and unofficially in Kentucky.”
After being married to a man for 27 years, she is well aware of the legal differences between being married to a woman instead of a man. She cannot file a joint tax return with her spouse, for example. Her wife gave up her first teaching job in Madison County because of the way she was treated at her school.
Richmond has the opportunity to become a civil rights leader in Kentucky by passing “a simple act of legislation” that would ban discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations, McAdam said.
The issue is not a matter of religion, she said, but of basic human rights.
Lisa Day said she wanted to “clarify a few misconceptions” about the Fairness Ordinance proposal.
It is not just about protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered people, she said. It also would protect straight people whose sexuality is not perceived as such.
The current proposal would exempt religious organizations as well as businesses with no more than two employees and landlords who rent no more than two rooms, Day said. The city commission also could impose its own limitations in the ordinance it passes, she said.
In general, however, a Fairness Ordinance “would be great for business,” Day said. All of the Fortune 500 companies that do business in Kentucky prohibit discrimination against LGBT individuals and prefer to locate in communities where they know their employees will not face discrimination, she said.
Mayor Jim Barnes thanked both McAdam and Day for their remarks, but neither he nor other members of the commission offered any comments.
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