Call for gay-rights 'fairness law' renewed after allegations of discrimination in Richmond park

dmoore@herald-leader.comJuly 11, 2012 

A state advocacy group renewed its call Wednesday for a Richmond fairness ordinance after a lesbian couple and their photographer contended they were kicked out of a park there.

"This young couple's plight is a perfect elucidation of the need for a local fairness ordinance in Richmond," Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, said in a news release. "In truth, we need an anti-discrimination (law) that will cover the whole commonwealth, but until that law passes, local fairness ordinances in Richmond, Berea and other cities around the state are necessary."

Richmond Human Rights Commission chairwoman Sandra Anez-Powell said there was no law against telling the couple to leave the park because the city doesn't have a fairness ordinance. Of the 23 human rights commissions in Kentucky, only those in Lexington, Louisville and Covington have "extended jurisdiction" to enforce protection from discrimination against gays, lesbians and transgender people.

The others, including the one in Richmond, have "standard jurisdiction" that does not have those protections.

The issue of fairness in Richmond and nearby Berea was discussed last year, but neither city enacted an ordinance. Berea Mayor Steve Connelly last fall suggested creation of a joint human rights commission serving Richmond and the rest of Madison County, including Berea.

But Richmond Mayor Jim Barnes rejected the idea as "premature," and Madison County Judge-Executive Kent Clark said he would not be able to fill the seats of the commission due to lack of interest.

Jessica Miller-Poole, owner of 13 Wishes Photography in Richmond, said she was posing Cheri Chenault and her partner, Destiny Keith, for a maternity session Saturday in E.C. Million Park when a gatekeeper told them they had to leave because "those type of people are not welcome here."

"They had such a small kiss, such a peck of a kiss, that I wasn't even able to capture a picture of it," Miller-Poole said.

Immediately after the kiss, she said, the park attendant told her to leave and said that she was banned indefinitely, depending on "your behavior and if you come back and if you bring those things with you."

"At that point I had to walk away, because those 'things' were my clients and those 'type of people' were no different from you and me," Miller-Poole said.

E.C. Million Park is basically two adjacent parks, one owned by the City of Richmond and the other privately funded and operated.

Miller-Poole said she was unsure at the time of the incident of the difference between the parks.

Adam Arvin, manager of the gated, private park, was not available for comment. A city parks official said she had no knowledge of the incident.

Miller-Poole said the gatekeeper was unable to produce a rule that justified the removal.

"There's a large sign posted, and it tells the hours of the park, no cats, no dogs, no football, no weddings — things along that line," she said. "It doesn't say anything about a specific race, sexual orientation, anything like that."

The Associated Press and the Richmond Register contributed to this article. Daniel Moore: (859) 231-3344.Twitter: @heraldleader

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