Amendment postpones final vote on Frankfort fairness ordinance

kward1@herald-leader.comAugust 26, 2013 

FRANKFORT — For the second time, the Frankfort Board of Commissioners has delayed a final vote on a fairness ordinance that would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Monday night, after two hours of sometimes tense debate and discussion at what was expected to be the second and final reading of the ordinance, the commission voted to amend the proposed ordinance. The amendment adds the term "legal guardianship" to the definition of "family."

Because of that change, city solicitor Rob Moore advised the commission that "out of an abundance of caution," it should consider Monday night's meeting a first reading of the ordinance.

The ordinance is now scheduled for second reading and a final vote at a special meeting of the commission at 8 a.m. Thursday.

Shoulders slumped and audience members sighed at the prospect of another meeting on the anti-discrimination ordinance.

"It's disappointing that these issues weren't brought forward before tonight," Mayor Bill May said after the meeting.

But Berea Ernst, who spoke in support of the ordinance on behalf of the grass-roots organization Frankfort Fairness, said after the meeting that she remained encouraged by the support for the proposal.

"It's a process, and we're still going to get there," she said. "They care enough to make sure these definitions are correct."

If the ordinance passes, as is expected, Kentucky's capital would become the fifth city in the state to adopt such a measure.

Lexington, Louisville, Covington and Vicco in Perry County also have ordinances banning discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Under Frankfort's proposed ordinance, complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity would go to the mayor or a fairness officer who would work to resolve the dispute.

If that were unsuccessful, the person alleging discrimination could file a formal complaint with the seven-member Frankfort Human Rights Commission, which will be created by the ordinance.

The ordinance provides exceptions for religious institutions. It also includes a provision governing how cases should be handled when an alleged violator holds "a sincerely held religious belief."

More than a dozen people, including several ministers, spoke against the ordinance, and most of them gave religious reasons for their disapproval.

Eunice Montfort told the commission about a recent case in New Mexico in which the state supreme court ruled against a Christian photographer who refused to take pictures of a lesbian couple's commitment ceremony.

"This is what we're afraid of," she said. "We're being targeted because we oppose things like this."

Others said the ordinance would provide protections to prevent people from being fired, kicked out of a restaurant or denied housing because they are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered.

"This is a civil rights issue in my mind," said Nancy Lynch. "It's about peace, love and joy."

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

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