Henderson is now among 15 cities in the Bluegrass to pass a fairness ordinance, and now some community leaders in Daviess County are trying to do the same.
The measure is a safeguard for members of the LGBTQ community, and area leaders are debating whether it’s necessary.
At Daviess County’s fiscal court meeting, community leaders came together to share the pros and cons of this measure. The main concern is how this ordinance could potentially impact people who aren’t part of that group.
A fairness ordinance is a non discrimination ordinance protecting the LGBTQ community from discrimination.
A similar ordinance was proposed to the city in 2014, but it was tabled. However, if one is passed through the county, the LGBTQ community in Owensboro and all of Daviess County would be protected.
Right there are no federal or state laws protecting this kind of discrimination, but the LGBTQ community in Owensboro says their rights need to be protected.
“People can still fire us for coming out as transgender. People can still deny us renting because we are gay,” says Deanna Smith.
Judge-Executive Al Mattingly says he would support the ordinance.
“We afford those protections to other minority groups. This is a minority group,” says Judge Mattingly.
This is a polarizing discussion in the community, evoking many strong emotions. This was apparent during Thursday’s fiscal court meeting when a couple of hundred community members packed the courtroom and hallway. The overwhelming majority was in favor of a fairness ordinance, even those outside of the LGBTQ community. However, the supporters are at the mercy of the county commissioners.
“In this case, we are not a democracy we are a republic,” says Judge Mattingly. “You elect me to make decisions for you.”
Keep in mind, a fairness ordinance has not been proposed to the Daviess County commissioners. Although, when and if it’s presented to the Daviess County fiscal court, it may not be passed.
So far, all three county commissioners have publicly expressed they would not vote in favor of a fairness ordinance.
“To me, the most important thing is how are the members of the LGBTQ community actually being treated? I believe they are being treated well,” says Daviess County Commissioner George Wathen.
Kaitlin Nonweiler says the Owensboro Human Relations Commission has received a number of discrimination reports, some even coming from public schools.
“So it’s very important that we pass a nondiscrimination ordinance to show everyone this is not accepted here,” says Nonweiler, Executive Director of the Owensboro Human Relations Commission.
Commissioner Wathen discussed religious concerns of those opposed to the ordinance.
“They are convinced that if this law is passed, their religious liberties and freedom of conscious will be eroded,” says Wathen.
Judge Mattingly disagrees with the three county commissioners but his vote won’t be enough to pass the ordinance.
At least two of the commissioners would have to change their minds. If a nondiscrimination ordinance is proposed and passed, the ordinance would cover city and county limits.