Fairness Law to be Proposed in Elizabethtown, Richmond

Joined by a coalition of Kentucky gay rights leaders, residents in Elizabethtown and Richmond are pressuring lawmakers to enact fairness laws in their cities.

The effort is part of a larger grassroots movement across the state to get such legislation passed in other cities such as Shelbyville, Bowling Green and Berea. Both ordinances would prohibit discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity.

In Kentucky, only the cities of Covington, Lexington and Louisville have a fairness legislation.

Louisville Fairness Campaign Chris Hartman says many residents in rural areas of the state don’t know that discrimination against LGBT citizens is still permitted.

“I think that there’s an assumption that these protections already exist or they don’t even know that they are necessary. We found in the survey that indicated 83 percent of Kentuckians support Fairness, that the majority also have no idea that this type of discrimination is still legal in most of Kentucky,” he says.

Across the country, the 2012 election results was said to be a watershed moment for gay rights and marriage equality advocates.  The movement celebrated same-sex marriage victories in Maine, Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, but gay rights opponents argued that those four states should not overshadow the over 30 states that have passed ballot initiatives banning gay marriage.

From L.A. Times:

Proponents of traditional marriage say there’s no big message to be read in the election results.  After all, these were Democratic states and do not represent the rest of the country, said Frank Schubert, the California campaign consultant who ran the traditional marriage campaigns in all four states.

“It was a good night for them, but it doesn’t portend any significant change in the country,” he said. “It may actually end up helping us long-term.”

The votes may energize supporters of traditional marriage, whose financial resources were spread thin this election. Polling shows that if gay marriage had been put to a nationwide vote, it would have been rejected on Tuesday, Schubert said.

“The American people continue to view marriage as a union between one man and one woman,” he said. “There’s nothing about last night that changes that.”

The gay rights movement in Kentucky—which passed its marriage amendment in 2004—is reflective of Schubert’s argument seeing how fairness proponents have struggled to persuade lawmakers to enact similar local measures outside urban areas.

Last summer, fairness laws were proposed in Richmond and Berea, but stalled despite vocal support. And attempts to pass a statewide law in the General Assembly have also failed for more than a decade without a single debate in a legislative committee.

Still, Hartman says more rural areas are progressing and that views are changing on gay rights.

“I’m extraordinarily confident that within the next year we will see a fourth local fairness ordinance in a city in Kentucky,” he says. “I don’t know if it’s going to be in Berea or Richmond or Bowling Green or Shelbyville or Elizabethtown or Morehead or Danville or Owensboro, but seeds have been sown in all of these cities and there are grassroots movements afoot in all of them.”

Elizabethtown residents are presenting a draft fairness ordinance to their city council on Monday, while Richmond residents are renewing their call for a similar law for Tuesday.

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