Ky. Voices: Uphold fairness law, maintain community civility

Lexingtonians fortunate to have legal recourse

April 1, 2012 

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This is the design for front of the proposed T-shirt.

PHOTO COURTESY GAY AND LESBIAN SERVICES ORGANIZATION OF LEXINGTON

Less than two weeks ago, Lexington hosted the NOH8 Campaign, an organization devoted to removing hate and discrimination prevalent in too many communities across the country.

At that time, Lexington Fairness was honored to serve as host, knowing there would be large support for their cause in Lexington. We were very happy to see hundreds show up to support the organization.

Less than a week later, Lexington was confronted with a claim of discriminatory business practices right in our own fair city. There has already been a vitriolic chorus of conversations regarding this incident. Lexington Fairness hopes we can all rise above the hate-filled talk and have a reasoned discussion on discrimination in our community.

Our organization has been in Central Kentucky for nearly 20 years with a goal to be a voice for, and provide service to, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community.

Much has changed while we have been around, and we are excited to see a community uniting for fairness and equal treatment of all citizens. The adoption of Lexington's Fairness Ordinance in 1999 was a huge step toward achieving this movement of cooperation and partnership.

That ordinance added sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class against discrimination. Our community no longer accepts nor provides a haven for businesses or individuals who choose to discriminate in the matters of housing, employment and public accommodations.

An unfortunate fact is that Lexington, Louisville and Covington are the only cities in Kentucky that offer these protections.

Those who live just on the other side of these cities' limits could be refused service by a business, fired from a job or denied a home without any legal recourse solely based on perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

We in Lexington are fortunate that our city recognizes the benefits of protecting all its citizens against discrimination.

Lexington Fairness supports the right of the Gay and Lesbian Services Organization to file a complaint regarding the recent refusal by Hands On Originals to print T-shirts for a gay organization.

The fairness ordinance was adopted to help prevent this kind of discriminatory action and to allow complaints to be investigated.

So, what is the process of filing a complaint? The Lexington Human Rights Commission is an independent agency that handles issues of discrimination for our entire community, whether they are based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age, disability, familial status, sexual orientation or gender identity. When a complaint is filed, it is investigated and a request for response is given to the organization or person accused of discriminatory practices.

After review, this may lead to mediation, settlement, dismissal or conciliation. This process is laid out clearly on the rights commission Web site (www.lfuchrc.org). Lexington Fairness now asks the community to respect this process.

At the same time, we appreciate the actions taken by Fayette County Public Schools to withhold future business and the University of Kentucky's reconsideration of renewing business with Hands On Originals. It is imperative to note these organizations respect the role of the Human Rights Commission's investigation and findings.

Discrimination is still prevalent. There are so many working hard to eradicate prejudice, hatred and discrimination. There is no place in our society to belittle or bully anyone. There is no place in our society to hate and be hostile toward others. There is no place in our society to disfavor and discriminate.

Let us work together, build strong community ties and protect the robust, open atmosphere for business development in Lexington.

We encourage the community to face this incident with reason and civility, understand how discrimination hurts others and reaffirm that our city does not allow discriminatory business practices.

We hope leaders and citizens from all points on the spectrum will join us in working together to ensure Lexington continues to grow as a diverse, accepting community.

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