Fairness Campaign takes a local strategy to gain traction on anti-discrimination rules

11/30/2012 04:13 PM

The Fairness Campaign in Kentucky is trying to add new aspects to the state’s civil rights protections, and it’s director Chris Hartman says the people of Kentucky are ready for these changes.

The campaign has mobilized citizens in five cities this year — Elizabethtown, Bowling Green, Shelbyville, Richmond and Berea — to urge their city officials to pass fairness ordinances that protect city workers from being discriminated against based on their sexual orientation or gender identification.

Hartman said the attitudes of Kentuckians have changed just over the last five years.

“[The arguments] used to be very moralistic arguments, they were based on religion or on ignorance or intolerance and these days, we know these days we know those arguments don’t fly,” he said (at 4:50).

Fairness ordinances already have been put in place in Louisville, Lexington, and Covington.

The state civil rights law protects against discrimination based on race, religion, nation of origin, and other characteristics. Efforts by Democratic lawmakers from Lexington and Louisville to extend those protections in the state statutes have failed in the legislature.

Hartman said that while the arguments against these types of ordinances are different than they were ten years ago, there is still some resistance. And one of those arguments is the cost of enforcing the types of discrimination protections.

“We know in cities like Louisville, Lexington and Covington there have been some associated costs but really not that much and we are talking about people’s civil rights and can you really put a price tag on that?” (at 3:10)

Focusing the campaign at the local level will lay the groundwork for a smoother transition to a statewide ordinance through the legislature, Hartman said.

“We know it doesn’t fly with constituents any longer, but unfortunately legislators are fearful that when it comes to their re-election bid it will be used as a dividing issue, as a wedge issue. And we know that really doesn’t play for constituents but there is still that fear left over from the olden days” (at 5:15).


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