RICHMOND — Advocates are stepping up their push for a Richmond ordinance that would ban discrimination against gays, lesbians and the transgendered.
As part of the effort, Ray Sexton, executive director of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission, told Richmond City Commission members Tuesday night that such ordinances don't cause the kinds of problems that people often fear.
For example, Sexton said concerns that an ordinance would paralyze government with waves of complaints are groundless. Lexington hasn't seen such problems since its fairness ordinance went on the books more than a decade ago, Sexton said.
"As far as our office, we aren't buried under excessive numbers of complaints," he said. "We get four or five a year, and they have not overwhelmed our resources. A lot of these supposed fears are myths, as far as our experience goes."
Interest in a fairness ordinance generally has been tepid in Richmond. But some backers said they think acceptance of the idea might be growing in the wake of an incident this summer in which an attendant ordered a lesbian couple out of a private Richmond park. The incident prompted critical comments from some Kentucky advocacy groups and sparked a fairness rally outside Richmond City Hall last month.
Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, noted Tuesday that longtime Richmond City Commissioner Robert Blythe stated after a recent commission meeting that perhaps officials should look into the feasibility of an ordinance.
Blythe said Tuesday night that he is gathering information.
"I want to talk with some folks on both sides. I want to hear what people are really thinking," Blythe said.
Hartman said he thinks things are moving in a different direction in Richmond.
"Never before has there been this sort of open window of opportunity to even start a dialogue on having a local law," Hartman said.
Sexton said that while there is no indication that an ordinance is going to be proposed, officials at least might be willing to talk about the possibility now.
"What I'm getting is the sense of people becoming more open-minded to the possibility of doing it, rather than just shooting it down right out of the gate," Sexton said.
He also said that if Richmond should decide to adopt an ordinance, the Lexington-Fayette County Human Rights Commission could provide assistance, such as helping to train fairness staffers in how to investigate complaints.