MIDWAY — This Woodford County city on Monday became the eighth in the state to adopt an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
With 4-2 passage of the ordinance by the city council, Midway joined Lexington, Louisville, Covington, Danville, Frankfort, Morehead and Vicco in Perry County as cities with similar ordinances.
Midway, with a population of 1,656, is the second-smallest city in Kentucky to pass an anti-bias ordinance. (Vicco has 320 people, according to the latest census estimate.)
Council members Kaye Nita Gallagher, Sara Hicks, Dan Roller and Bruce Southworth voted for the ordinance. Council members Steven Craig and Libby Warfield voted against it.
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The ordinance will become law next week when it is published in the local newspaper.
Proponents said the ordinance signaled that Midway was a welcoming community, but opponents said it was unnecessary.
"Midway is absolutely without a problem," said 10-year resident Curt Savage. "Everyone gets along here."
But Scot Skidmore, another 10-year resident who is openly gay, praised the city's vote.
"I'm just so proud of our city council today," Skidmore said. "People say that it's not necessary and that it's unneeded because we live in such a great community. But it's not OK to discriminate just because there is no evidence of it (discrimination) right now."
During the council debate, Warfield asked Mayor Grayson Vandegrift, "Why are we doing this?"
Vandegrift said he proposed the ordinance after he learned that a person could be fired from a job, evicted from a residence or denied public service because he or she is gay or transgender.
"That seems wrong to me," Vandegrift said. "But if you're asking me why we're doing this, I brought it up, it survived committee, it's here at second reading and we're about to vote on it."
Under the ordinance, complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity would go to the mayor or his designee, who would work to resolve the dispute.
If a settlement is not reached, the mayor or his designee would conduct an investigation to determine whether there was probable cause to believe the allegations.
If there was no probable cause that a discriminatory action occurred, the mayor shall dismiss the complaint. If probable cause was found, the mayor 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 is reached, the mayor shall refer the complaint to an administrative hearing.
The ordinance exempts religious institutions or organizations affiliated with religious institutions, such as Midway College, which is affiliated with the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The college, which will become Midway University on July 1, has about 100 full-time employees and is the city's largest employer.
A business with eight or fewer employees would be exempt from the provisions about unlawful hiring practices in employment. Similar language is in the state's anti-discrimination law, which authorizes local human rights commissions, and in anti-bias ordinances adopted by other cities.
Anyone found to have violated the ordinance may face civil penalties of $100 to $500. An aggrieved party may appeal the decision to Woodford Circuit Court.
The two other local governments in Woodford County don't have immediate plans to take up similar anti-bias ordinances.
Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott said he was "supportive in principle" of an anti-bias ordinance but said the issue had not come up at city council meetings.
Woodford County Fiscal Court won't consider an ordinance until "both cities have dealt with it," Woodford Judge-Executive John Coyle said before the Midway vote.