Woodford County

Versailles moves forward with plan for ordinance prohibiting bias against gays

VERSAILLES — Versailles City Council moved forward Tuesday with a plan to draft an anti-bias ordinance for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.

Mayor Brian Traugott asked council member Carl Ellis, chairman of the council's administrative and legal committee, to begin researching and drafting an ordinance.

"This is not something we're going to rush into," Ellis said. Other Kentucky cities worked for months writing and revising their ordinances.

Peggy Carter Seal, a member of the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission's fairness committee, encouraged the council to adopt an ordinance.

"It would send a clear message that everyone is protected by the law," Seal said.

Kent Ostrander, executive director of The Family Foundation of Kentucky, told council members they should pass such an ordinance "if you have a serious problem with this kind of discrimination."

But if there isn't a problem, considering an anti-bias ordinance "opens up a can of worms," he said.

"As I see Versailles and even Woodford County, it's not a discriminatory kind of place," Ostrander added.

Seal told the council that she isn't aware of local complaints from the LGBT community.

"However, it is my understanding that people often under-report or tend not to report at all when they know that nothing can be done," Seal said. "It often makes the person complaining extremely vulnerable and perhaps open to retaliation."

An anti-bias or "fairness" ordinance would prohibit discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Sexual orientation refers to the sex or sexes to whom one is attracted; transgender people are those who identify with the gender opposite their birth gender.

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.

A statewide law — which would eliminate city-by-city campaigns — has not passed the legislature, although another effort will be made in 2016.

Federal and Kentucky civil rights laws generally prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin or disability.

Neither Kentucky nor federal civil rights laws prohibit private-sector bias against people based on sexual orientation or gender identity, although executive orders prohibit it in areas such as state hiring and federal public housing.

Anti-bias ordinances typically outline a procedure in dealing with discrimination complaints and setting penalties for violations.

They also typically exempt religious organizations and religious nonprofits.