FRANKFORT — Seeking the passage of three pieces of legislation protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, more than 200 people rallied on Wednesday in the Capitol Rotunda with Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign.
Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, a Democrat of Louisville, is sponsoring a bill that would prevent employers from discriminating against employees based on sexual orientation. The bill, along with Senate Bill 28, would also make it illegal for landlords and real estate agents to discriminate on those grounds.
“I think the realistic hope is that we might get the first ever hearing on the anti-discrimination fairness law in House Judiciary this year,” Fairness Campaign director Chris Hartman said. “That’s really what we’re gunning for. Even if it’s an informational only hearing it would be the first time they’ve ever discussed the bill on the record.”
Marzian sponsored similar legislation last year and spoke in the changes in the political landscape that might influence HB 171’s path this year. Marzian is also sponsoring House Bill 377—known as the anti-bullying bill—which aims to protect students who are victims of bullying because of sexual orientation.
“I think we had a lot more Kentucky public citizens that are supportive of basic fairness for jobs, housing, public accommodation. And they get it,” Marzian said. “I think we’ve seen a lot of national movement on the anti-bullying bill. And I think that also has a better chance of passing this session with the public being aware of the incidents throughout Kentucky where children have been harassed and even committed suicide.”
The rally included groups from all over the state, including some from an eastern Kentucky town of Vicco. The small Kentucky town has garnered national attention recently as the smallest town in the United States to pass anti-discriminatory housing laws. Johnny Cummings, Mayor of Vicco, attended the rally.
“We’ve had like 32 different people that have called city hall and asked for a copy of our ordinance,” Cummings said. “Hazard right now is looking at it, and there’s been all kinds of response.”
HB 171 has been assigned to the state House Judiciary Committee, the anti-bullying bill to state House Education and Senate Bill 28 to the state Senate Judiciary Committee. None have received a hearing yet.