The Henderson City Commission passed the first reading of the Fairness Ordinance.
Aimed at fostering equality in employment, housing, and public accommodations, the Henderson Fairness Ordinance passed at Tuesday’s City Commissioner meeting with a vote of 3-2.
Among those who voted no was Henderson Mayor Steve Austin.
“I have been a no vote all along,” says Austin. “I’m not in favor of pulling out certain groups of people in our community for fairness while others are not included in there. I’m for fairness for everyone. I think we should be fair to every citizen in our community including the group that was discussed tonight.”
The draft version was presented during a town hall meeting in early May, but Tuesday’s reading incorporated changes including protections and wording of Kentucky’s Religious Restoration Rights Act, also known as the Religious Freedom’s Act.
“I’m very, very disappointed in this clause that has been added,” says one Henderson resident. “The Fairness Ordinance is protecting people who want to live somewhere. Who want to have a job. Religion has nothing to do with fairness. Nothing.”
“So I don’t know that there’s really a need for another law for special rights for a special group if you will,” says another Henderson resident. “So that would be the thing that I would say. I was okay with the religious exemption clause. I’m not sure if it goes far enough.”
During the meeting, it was explained by commissioners that the city cannot negate what had been legislated at state level.
“It was put in there just as a clarification that this is state law and this has to be handled that way,” says Austin.
Other changes to the proposed ordinance include the removal of the phrase “Beauty shops or barber shops” from the list of exceptions along with adding some protections for area businesses.
The ordinance will now go up for a second reading later in June.
If passed, it would go into effect within a few days.