It seemed everything was turned upside down here last week. The Queen City of the Mountains made national press after two gay men were kicked out of the Hazard Pavilion on June 10. Considering the number of people who claim the men were asked to leave because they were gay, and then the number of people who claim it was because of "excessive displays of affection" while swimming in the pool, the verdict really is out on that.
But one thing we know for sure is that officials with the city of Hazard responded correctly in suspending a city employee who, according to a city report, referenced the Bible after asking the two men to leave. Considering the funding sources of the Pavilion, there is no room for religious references in the enforcement of public policy.
But perhaps the most troubling aspect of this fiasco is how Hazard and, in effect, southeastern Kentucky has been stripped down once again to the stereotypical undergrowth that has been the proverbial thorn in our side for so long. Just last week, we received a call from a woman in another state, who assured us Hazard was looking poorly in the eyes of fellow Americans.
While that is not news to us, the issue is being blown out of proportion. The city's initial response was a good one. They put their lead attorney on a fact-finding investigation. The results, which uncovered that a city employee undeniably made religious references when ousting the couple, led to a five-day suspension without pay for the employee.
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Other steps the city is taking are also good ones. It's going to install signs at the Pavilion relating anti-discrimination policy, and staff will undergo additional training on federal and state law regarding non-discrimination. We disagree with the Kentucky Equality Federation's request that the city employee be moved to another position. This employee was hired because the person's skill set fit the job requirements. Moving the employee to another job would be side-stepping the issue at hand.
Instead, this situation should be used as a learning tool. The bar has been set, and now the rest of our city employees will have a better understanding of how to handle these types of situations. We fully expect that in the future, they will act more appropriately.