Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Mayor Vandegrift proposes 'fairness ordinance' to protect gays, transgender people from discrimination

By Anthony Pendleton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
This story has been updated, with information gathered by UK student Paige Hobbs.

Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift wants Midway to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Under the “fairness ordinance” proposed by the mayor, businesses with more than seven employees and commercial landlords would not be allowed to discriminate against lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender people.

Vandegrift said there’s not a draft of the ordinance yet, though he will “make it official” at Monday night's city council meeting by asking the Ordinance, Policy and Finance Committee to begin working on one.

Vandegrift, who was on the council for two years before becoming mayor Jan. 1, said the idea came from the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission, which approached him about a countywide ordinance. “I had heard about fairness ordinances, but like most people, I didn’t really know exactly what they were.”

Vandegrift said the commission “explained it more to me – what the fairness ordinance is – and it sort of opened my eyes, because I, like most everybody else I’ve talked to, already thought that everyone was protected under some state or federal law.”

Under federal and state laws, employers cannot discriminate based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age, or disability. A 1978 federal law prohibits discrimination against federal employees based on conduct or attributes that don't affect their performance, such as marital status, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has interpreted that to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation.

However, there is no federal law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation for citizens, and no federal law prohibits discrimination against federal employees or citizens based on gender identity.

“Now I see why it’s called a fairness ordinance,” Vandegrift said, “because it’s unfair to protect everybody else but not protect everybody. I think Midway should have a discussion about it. And there’s gonna be a lot of discussion.”

One who has already entered the discussion is Ed Crowley, owner of Photizo Group, who has identified his firm as "a Christian-based company." He said he sees no need for the ordinance because he has never heard of such discrimination in Midway. "I think it really caters to a specific community. What it does for businesses like mine is open us up to litigation."

Vandegrift said, “I don’t think he’s fully grasping this. I think he assumes that somehow we’re giving gays special protection. We’re not. We’re just saying ‘let’s level the playing field.’ . . . I think his fears are because he’s an employer, but I’m an employer of over eight people. I have a restaurant. This affects me, too. I don’t see a problem with it.”

Council Member Kaye Nita Gallagher said she was unaware of any discrimination in Midway, but strongly supports the proposal. "With the way society is today, I think everyone should have the same rights," she wrote in response to questions emailed by the Midway Messenger.

Other council members did not respond to the email.

Vandegrift said that once the committee drafts the ordinance, “We’re gonna have a public forum over it. And if we need to have a second public forum, we’ll have a second one.”

Midway would be only the eighth Kentucky city with a fairness ordinance. Those with them are Louisville, Lexington, Covington, Frankfort, Danville, Morehead and Vicco, a tiny town in Perry County. The most recent one is Danville's; the Berea City Council voted 5-3 against one in October.

“Other places have passed these ordinances and the sky hasn’t fallen,” Vandegrift said. “I think the one thing that … people commonly think this has to deal with is marriage equality. And it has absolutely nothing to do with marriage equality. We don’t have the authority, nor do we even want to weigh in on that issue.”

The city council meeting begins at 5:30 Monday. Council members are also scheduled to have a special meeting at 4 p.m., to get training on their Kindle devices, which they use to get city information.


TomB said...

I believe that what is fair for some is fair for all...this is a good idea.☺

Anonymous said...

I think this is a horrible idea!!!!

Anonymous said...

Discrimination is modern-day slavery. Discussions yield ordinance changes for protection of all members of the community.

TomB said...

Specifically, what is horrible about this?

TomB said...

I justified my "this is a good idea" with "what is fair for some is fair for all"...can you give a reason as to why you feel this is a horrible idea?