Divided Frankfort city commission advances fairness ordinance

kward1@herald-leader.comJune 24, 2013 

FRANKFORT — Frankfort city commissioners are moving forward with a fairness ordinance.

Based on suggestions at a Board of Commissioners meeting Monday night, City Attorney Rob Moore said he would have a new draft ordinance ready for the July 8 work session.

The ordinance could get a first reading at the July 22 commission meeting.

Commissioners Katie Flynn Hedden and Tommy Haynes said during Monday's meeting that they were in favor of an ordinance, which Mayor Bill May also supports.

"I want to do what I think Jesus would do," Haynes said. "I just think it would be the best thing for Frankfort at this time."

Two commissioners — Robert Roach and Lynn Bowers — spoke in opposition to the ordinance.

Roach said he thought the ordinance was unnecessary and that discrimination based on sexual orientation was uncommon.

He also said the issue had "divided the community."

"There is an intrinsic problem between liberty and equality," he said. "I believe you should err on the side of liberty. ...Somebody's liberty could be infringed upon because of the fairness ordinance."

While Bowers said she "can see both sides of this issue," she said she opposed the ordinance because "I don't see this discrimination any more than I see other discrimination."

"We can't legislate fairness," she said. "We're all going to discriminate differently."

Roach said he had gotten 300 to 400 emails and about 100 telephone calls about the fairness ordinance — more than he has fielded on all other issues combined.

A crowd of about 80 people filled the chambers during Monday night's meeting, and about 10 addressed the commission about the ordinance. Of those, more people were in favor of the ordinance than against it.

"What are the opponents of extending this ordinance afraid of?" said Ronald Crawford. "This is the capital city of Kentucky. We need to ... take the lead.

"We need to recognize the rights of everyone."

The fairness ordinance would prohibit discrimination in housing, public accommodation or employment based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

It includes exemptions. For example, people hiring an in-home nurse or domestic, and landlords renting a room in their home or half of a duplex in which they live would not have to comply with the ordinance.

Religious organizations would not have to hire someone who did not agree with their religious beliefs, Moore has said.

The draft ordinance also would provide for exemption under the state's newly adopted Religious Freedom Act, which states in part that "government shall not substantially burden a person's freedom of religion."

Four Kentucky cities — Lexington, Louisville, Covington and the tiny town of Vicco in Perry County — have ordinances banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Additionally, Berea Mayor Steve Connelly in February signed an executive order that applies only to city government, banning employment discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Karla Ward: (859) 231-3314. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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