Danville adopts fairness ordinance, joining 6 other Kentucky cities

gkocher1@herald-leader.comJune 9, 2014 

DANVILLE — Danville on Monday night became the seventh Kentucky city to adopt an ordinance that prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

With a 4-1 vote, Danville joined Lexington, Louisville, Covington, Frankfort, Morehead and Vicco in Perry County as cities with similar ordinances.

City commissioners Kevin Caudill, Paul Smiley, Paige Stevens and James Atkins voted for the ordinance. Mayor Bernie Hunstad, who has opposed the ordinance since it was proposed last year, was the lone "no" vote.

"I don't support discrimination, but I can't support bad law, and that's how I view this," Hunstad said.

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

That exemption was added after an attorney for Sunrise Children's Services had said Sunrise would sue if the ordinance became law. If the ordinance were passed and the lawsuit failed, Sunrise was prepared to leave Danville, he had said.

Sunrise is a psychiatric residential treatment facility for boys ages 6 to 18; it 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.

A motion to reinstate language that said an exemption was null "when such institutions and organizations receive the majority of its annual funding from any federal, state or local government body or agency, or any combination thereof" was defeated on a 3-2 vote. Hunstad, Smiley and Caudill voted no; Atkins and Stevens voted yes.

Several citizens expressed disappointment that the exemption means Sunrise will face no penalty if it discriminates against a gay employee. Among them was psychologist Cay Shawler.

"How can we say 'I believe in being unfair?'" Shawler said after the vote. "Part of me is sad. But I'm encouraged by some progress."

Stevens also expressed disappointment with the final version of the ordinance. But, she said, "I'd rather have weak tea than no tea at all."

The ordinance becomes law once it is published in the local newspaper.

Under the ordinance, complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity would go to the city manager, who may designate an agent to fulfill the duties and procedures outlined in the ordinance. The city manager will investigate and attempt to negotiate a settlement of the dispute between the parties, "if the city manager deems that such an attempt is practicable."

If a settlement attempt is not successful, the city manager shall conduct an investigation to determine whether there is probable cause to believe the allegations. If there is no probable cause that a discriminatory action occurred, the city manager shall dismiss the complaint.

If probable cause is found, the city manager shall try to eliminate the alleged violation by a conciliation agreement.

In the event of an unwillingness to participate in a conciliation process or no conciliation agreement has been reached, the city manager shall refer the complaint for an administrative hearing. Anyone found to have violated the ordinance may face civil penalties of $100 to $500.

An aggrieved party may appeal the decision to Boyle Circuit Court.

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety.

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