Woodford County

Versailles might become 9th Kentucky city with ordinance protecting gays from discrimination

Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott
Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott

Versailles might be the next Central Kentucky city to consider an ordinance to protect gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people from discrimination.

At its meeting Tuesday, the Versailles City Council will hear from a member of the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission who will encourage the city to adopt an ordinance prohibiting discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The human rights commission adopted a resolution in February recommending that Versailles, Midway and Woodford Fiscal Court expand civil-rights protections.

On June 1, Midway became the eighth city in the state to adopt an anti-bias ordinance. Other cities that have passed similar laws are Lexington, Louisville, Covington, Danville, Frankfort, Morehead and Vicco in Perry County.

Midway becomes 8th Kentucky city with anti-bias ordinance

Once Midway passed an ordinance, "it was just a matter of time" for Versailles to do so as well, Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott said.

Opinion: With fairness ordinance, Midway proves you don't have to be big to lead

"My contention had always been that I was supportive of it but I was not ... going to bring it before the council," Traugott said. "If I had my druthers, we're going to take it all the way through and craft a fair ordinance. We're going to move forward procedurally Tuesday."

Traugott said he would ask the city's administrative and legal committee, chaired by council member Carl Ellis, to draft the ordinance.

"On a personal level, I think it's the right thing to do and to me it's an easy thing to do," Traugott said. "There's never been a city that lost a job because they passed it."

Woodford County Judge-Executive John Coyle said Friday that Woodford Fiscal Court had no plans to take up a fairness ordinance.

"There's been no request from any of the magistrates or anyone to place it on the docket, and the attitude of the court has not changed," Coyle said.

At least 225 cities and counties in the United States have anti-bias ordinances, according to the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization that advocates for LGBT equal rights.

The Fairness Campaign, the Kentucky organization that seeks to prohibit LGBT discrimination, "has definitely been aware that Versailles was likely the next city to take up that conversation" after Midway, director Chris Hartman said.

The Fairness Campaign is working in about a dozen communities across the state to pass anti-bias laws, Hartman said.

"Now, I can't say that in the vast majority of those cities that the city or county fiscal court is engaged completely in the dialogue," Hartman said. "Owensboro has probably been the most receptive, and Owensboro may within the coming months have a public forum on fairness. And, of course, we have a strong movement in Bowling Green. ... Versailles really was the next one we had been looking at."

In Versailles the consideration of an anti-bias ordinance comes after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled June 26 that state laws banning same-sex marriage are unconstitutional. In the wake of that ruling, Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis, an Apostolic Christian, refused to issue marriage licenses to any couples, gay or straight.

Davis spent five days in jail in Carter County last month after refusing a federal judge's order to issue marriage licenses. She was released only after one of her deputy clerks began issuing licenses without Davis's name on them.

Hartman said the Kim Davis episode "has broadened and deepened the dialogue about what LGBT discrimination could look like. We have a very clear example of somebody refusing to serve LGBT people.

"So I think the Kim Davis conversation has allowed people ... to start talking about the fact that Kentucky is a state that already lacks these type of discrimination protections. In most of the state, an LGBT couple could be married on Sunday and evicted or kicked out of a restaurant on Monday, and a lot of folks did not know that. Kim has been a distraction but has also been a lens that has helped focus the conversation on fairness in Kentucky."

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