Danville City Commission adds amendment to fairness ordinance

kward1@herald-leader.comMay 27, 2014 

The Danville City Commission on Tuesday created an exemption for a social services organization that said it would sue if the city passes an ordinance prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation in employment, housing and public accommodations.

The commission was poised to give second and final reading to the ordinance, but after meeting in closed session for more than an hour the commission voted to amend the ordinance and gave it a new first reading. Second reading is scheduled for June 9.

As amended, the ordinance includes an exemption for a "faith-based social services provider."

An attorney for Sunrise Children's Services had said that Sunrise would sue if the ordinance became law. If the ordinance were passed and the lawsuit failed, Sunrise is prepared to move elsewhere, he has said.

Sunrise is a psychiatric residential treatment facility for boys between the ages of 6 and 18 that employs 50 people at its Woodlawn campus in Danville.

Sunrise is affiliated with the Kentucky Baptist Convention but receives about 80 percent of its funding from state and federal governments.

"Compromise is the way of our country," said Commissioner Paul Smiley, who made the motion to amend the ordinance and exempt Sunrise.

The version of the ordinance that was expected to be passed on Tuesday included an exemption for religious institutions, but the exemption in that version would not have included organizations that receive the majority of their funding from the government.

Commissioners Smiley, Kevin Caudill, Paige Stevens and Mayor Bernie Hunstad voted for the amendment that exempts Sunrise from the ordinance. Commissioner James Atkins voted against the amendment.

Hunstad has opposed the ordinance since it was proposed last year and voted "no" on the first reading of the ordinance as amended.

"I think it's going to be an unfair law to many of our small and large businesses," he said Tuesday.

Atkins also voted "no" on the ordinance as amended because he disagrees with the amendment, but he said he supports the ordinance as a whole and will likely vote in favor of it on second reading.

Several citizens, including Daniel Kirchner, criticized the commission for "kowtowing" to Sunrise.

"The legal facts have not changed," Kirchner told the commission. "What is it about this institution that justifies giving them a pass on discrimination?"

Ricky Smith said he felt that the commission had let him down.

"I thought we really was on the right track," he said. "You let, in a sense, an economic bully come in here and bully you all."

Several Sunrise employees were among the members of the public who told the commission that they were against the ordinance.

"It's important to have Sunrise in Danvillle," said Luke King, a supervisor at Sunrise who asked the commission to create an exemption for the facility. "They do a lot of good there."

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

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