Opinion

‘Everyone is welcome.’ Georgetown right to become 13th Ky. city with fairness ordinance.

Congratulations to Georgetown for becoming Kentucky’s 13th city to pass a fairness ordinance that will ban discrimination against LGBTQ citizens in employment, housing and public accommodations.

Georgetown now joins Louisville, Lexington, Covington, Vicco, Frankfort, Morehead, Danville, Midway, Paducah, Maysville, Henderson and Dayton in bringing Kentucky into the 21st century. The 5-3 vote on Monday night shows that a majority of the city council knows what is right both in a moral and a civic sense.

“I think it’s important because it’s a matter of basic human rights,” said Rosanne Klarer, a retired teacher who has bisexual family members. “It’s against my sense of democracy to deny one group of people their basic civil rights.”

She makes a good point. It’s interesting that some Christians think some Old Testament scripture about homosexuality should outweigh one of the Ten Commandments, the one that tells you to love your neighbor as yourself.

What’s even more interesting are the parallels between opposition to LGBTQ rights and to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. We now accept that Jim Crow segregation was wrong. And yet many conservatives and evangelical Christians opposed the Civil Rights Movement that overturned those unjust laws, particularly in the South. If we recognize Jim Crow was wrong, why do we think anti-gay sentiment is somehow acceptable?

Thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, we accept that business owners cannot keep people out of their restaurants and stores; federal public accommodations laws require public and private facilities used by the public to be accessible to the disabled, and prohibits discrimination based on “race, color, religion, or national origin.” Sexual orientation is not yet part of that federal law, but this is what fairness ordinances guarantee. Hence the uproar over the 2012 Hands On Originals case, which recently went before the Kentucky Supreme Court. The court will decide whether the Hands On owner’s right of free expression overrides civil rights protections.

Georgetown Mayor Tom Prather said he thinks the ordinance passed after being defeated two years ago because the Hands On case helped more people understand that religious freedom is still protected under state law, even though the ordinance will prohibit personal discrimination.

“It’s essential that Georgetown be recognized as welcoming, affirming and accepting, it’s important to our growth,” Prather said. “The way we grow as a community is to be inclusive.”

Speaking of growth, clear-thinking public servants like Prather have to only to look around the country to see that bigotry and discrimination are very bad for business. Ask Vice President Mike Pence, who signed a “religious freedom” bill that largely allowed anti-LGBTQ discrimination, only to see it watered down after major corporations like Apple and the NCAA protested. Or North Carolina, which in 2017 rescinded its “bathroom bill” prohibiting transgender bathrooms after businesses, entertainers and sports leagues boycotted the state.

Georgetown is the home of an international corporation, Toyota, and would no doubt like to attract more. “We hate gays” or “We like to deny basic civil rights” makes for a poor economic development plank.

Georgetown resident Carolyn Dennis has a gay son and has worked on the fairness ordinance for the past year. She said opponents of the bill, including several Baptist ministers talked about homosexuality as a lifestyle choice, even though it’s clearly not.

Dennis said many people who spoke in favor of the ordinance told moving stories of bullying and discrimination growing up in Georgetown.

“I think this will send a message to our youth,” Dennis said. “Hopefully this will set a standard saying that everyone is welcome and everyone is loved in Georgetown regardless of who you are.”

Linda Blackford writes columns and commentary for the Herald-Leader.

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