A representative of the Kentucky Fairness Coalition said Wednesday that a recent anti-gay incident involving two Berea College students demonstrated the need for language in Berea's new human rights commission ordinance to protect individuals from intolerance based on gender orientation.
Chris Hartman, a steering committee member with the state fairness coalition, made the comments a day after the two students told Berea City Council members that they were subjected to anti-gay slurs and insults the day after a fairness march and rally last month.
"They (the students) expressed to the council that they felt the council's inaction on the fairness ordinance is opening the door to embolden those who are prone to discriminate," Hartman said.
The Berea Council voted 6-1 on Sept. 20 to adopt an ordinance creating a city human rights commission to investigate discrimination. The measure does not extend protection for gays, lesbians and transgender people, although some council members have said an ordinance including such protections would be proposed later.
Sam Gleaves, said he and his friend were walking on Chestnut Street about 9 p.m. Sept. 21 when a car carrying several males passed by. Gleaves, a second-year student from Virginia, said he and the other student had performed music at a Bereans for Fairness rally the day before and apparently were recognized by those in the car.
After the occupants in the car shouted insults, one of them threw a bottle of water, he said.
"It was pretty shocking," Gleaves said. "I reacted by trying to just walk on, but my friend was very distraught. I don't think he'd ever had anything like this happen to him before."
The students were unable to get the license number of the car.
Gleaves said he stressed to city council members Tuesday night that Berea College students are "citizens of the city and are just as subject to discrimination as the rest of the town."
Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3255.