Years ago, writer H.L. Menken concluded that for every complex question there is a simple and inappropriate answer.
The July 21 editorial confirmed that theory by answering the question of whether Berea should create a human rights commission with standard jurisdiction, like Richmond's, or extended jurisdiction, like Lexington's, with the simple response that extended jurisdiction — which includes sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class along with race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age and disability — was the only choice because "it's the right thing to do and it makes economic sense."
Furthermore, the editorial concluded that by creating a commission with standard jurisdiction — similar to 20 of the 23 commissions in Kentucky — Berea's council would demonstrate its fear of enduring "a long siege of thundering ministers and their distressed flock" or an actual aversion to protecting citizens from discrimination based on sexual identity.
In fact, Berea's council took the first step to create a commission with standard jurisdiction for these reasons:
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■ The reported incidents of intolerance in Berea over the past year involved issues of race, not sexual orientation.
■ A local commission with standard jurisdiction will have the support of the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights to enforce violations. By contrast, a commission with extended jurisdiction covering complaints of gender identity and sexual orientation must act alone and without the state commission to investigate, hear, decide, enforce and respond to appeals in circuit court for all sexual orientation complaints.
■ For Berea to go from having no commission to having a commission with extended jurisdiction is premature when it lacks experience handling standard complaints with assistance from the Kentucky commission.
■ A local commission with standard jurisdiction will provide our community with a sympathetic group whose job is also to monitor complaints of discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation and evaluate the need to extend this jurisdiction.
■ Significantly, having a local commission with standard jurisdiction will give Berea, Richmond and Madison County the opportunity to form a joint commission — like Versailles, Midway and Woodford County —to educate our citizens about their rights and obligations under the Federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and KRS Chapter 344 and to reduce intolerance and discrimination county-wide in employment, housing and public accommodations based on race, color, religion, national origin, sex, age and disability.
The simple answer to this complicated question suggested by the Herald-Leader's editorial sounds surprisingly similar to a previously proposed simple and ineffective solution to the problem of drug abuse: Just say "no."