BEREA — Mayor Steve Connelly suggested amending the city’s discrimination ordinance to include all forms of discrimination.

He made that announcement Thursday night at a meet-and-greet event for the city’s recently appointed human rights commission.

The current ordinance could be modified to “... flatly say that Berea prohibits all discrimination unless it is legally required or justified, or based upon a health and safety need,” the mayor said.

Connelly asked the community for feedback.

The event was conducted at Berea Coffee & Tea, where several Berea City Council members were present, along with representatives from other Kentucky fairness coalitions.

The city council created a local Human Rights Commission in lieu of creating a discrimination ordinance protecting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender, which is the goal of Bereans for Fairness.

Connelly was questioned Thursday about what he meant by justified discrimination.

“We discriminate when we say a 15-year-old can’t drive a vehicle on a road,” he explained to the group.

The city’s smoking ban is an example of the health and safety needs, he said in a Friday interview. Smokers are being discriminated against, but it is for the health and safety of the general public, he said.

“I am interested in that approach and am curious if these folks have any perspective to give,” Connelly said.

The main point of creating such an ordinance is simple, he said.

“The focus is discrimination should be prohibited,” the mayor said.

Connelly said during Thursday’s gathering that he wanted Berea to go on the record “... and be opposed to discrimination that is unreasonable, that is not required by law or some kind of health and safety reason. My request is would you all think about that and would you give me some feedback?”

David Shroyer, a member of Bereans for Fairness, said Connelly’s statements Thursday could be a step in the right direction.

“This may not turn out to be a complete solution, but I think it should be looked at with interest and appreciation,” Shroyer said. “We should let the mayor know that we think it is offered in good faith on his part.”

Appointed in November by Connelly, the city’s Human Rights Commission members are: Chad Hembree, Tim Hampton, Mae Suramek (chair), Jonathan Schinhofen, Jeannie Gregory, Lisa Vaughn and Paula Dunson-Wood.

The commission’s formation came after a long community debate last year about whether an ordinance protecting members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from discrimination was necessary.

The Human Rights Commission for Kentucky offered the Berea City Council a sample ordinance from a nearby city.

This sample ordinance included language protecting those of the LGBT community from several realms of discrimination, including employment and housing acquisition.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@richmondregister.com or 624-6608.

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