During a rally Wednesday in Frankfort, Judith Faulkner of Berea reflected on the beginnings of the fairness movement that started in her town in early 2011.
“Today I look out and see a sea of blue supporters,” Faulkner said to a crowd of fairness advocates wearing blue T-shirts in the state capitol rotunda. “Isn’t that fantastic? I think it is.”
Supporters from all across the state rallied at the capitol to speak with legislators about passing anti-discrimination and anti-bullying laws.
Senate Bill 28 and House Bill 171 would amend the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” among other classes of individuals protected from discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.
House Bill 377, also called “The Sam Denham and Miranda Campbell Stand Up for All Students Act," was named after two Kentucky teens who committed suicide after being bullied at school. This law would include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students among other protected classes.
Supporters lobbied legislators in the morning and delivered more than 11,000 constituent postcards advocating passage of the fairness and anti-bullying/harassment laws.
During the rally Tuesday afternoon, Faulkner spoke about the many Bereans that stood up in support of fairness during a community forum. She recalled the 400 “loud and proud” supporters that marched to city hall, spurring the re-creation of the city’s human rights commission. She mentioned how just a few weeks ago, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly signed an executive order banning LGBT discrimination for city employees.
“We’re not there yet, but we’ve come this far because Bereans for Fairness have persevered, even in the face of opposition and complacency,” Faulkner said. “If we wish to see Kentucky retain its title as a southern civil rights leader, we must all persevere together.”
High school students also filled the rotunda. Among them was Jade Glore, a senior at Manual High School in Louisville.
Students are here “to plead with Kentucky lawmakers to save our friends,” Glore said. “We have lost too many of our peers, our friends and young people in general, to suicide brought on by needless bullying and harassment at school. One would be too many, but this is senseless. It’s unacceptable.”
Vicco Mayor Johnny Cummings spoke about his small town in eastern Kentucky that recently passed a fairness ordinance. Vicco is the fourth Kentucky city and is the smallest city in America to pass a fairness law and was recently featured in the New York Times.
State representatives made their way to the podium to address the crowd.
“You have a lot of fans over there in the committee meetings that are co-sponsors of this bill in the House and in the Senate,” said Rep. Jim Wayne (D-Louisville). “What we’re asking in the fairness bill is very simple — we’re asking that all Kentuckians be honored and respected — it’s as simple as that.”
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian (D-Louisville), who was first elected in 1994, has noticed that less “homophobic bills” have been introduced in the last four of five years, much less passed.
“While we may be a little slow compared to the rest of the country, we are moving at a pace that is probably Kentucky pace,” she joked. However, “the more and more (fairness/anti-bullying) rallies we have, the more and more legislators that will get educated. They realize this is the right thing to do.”
Crystal Wylie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.