Thursday, February 18, 2016

Vandegrift cites Midway's 'fairness ordinance' in testifying for bill to create statewide law

By Anyssa Roberts
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Media

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift traveled to Frankfort Wednesday to testify on a panel in favor of the Fairness Campaign’s anti-discrimination bill at a state legislative committee hearing.

Vandegrift and other members on the panel said the state should change its civil rights laws to prohibit people from being denied employment, housing or services due to their sexual orientation and gender identity.

He told the House Judiciary Committee that passing a “fairness ordinance” in Midway has been good for the town and would be good for the state as well.

“A lot of folks don’t realize that it’s still legal in Kentucky to fire someone just because of their sexual orientation,” the mayor said. Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people “simply want to earn a living and provide for their families just like everyone else.”

Vandergrift said that passing Midway’s ordinance was a “swift and easy” process and it can be just as easy for Kentucky.

He proposed the amendment in Midway in February of last year and the city council approved it with a 4-2 vote in June. He said the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission opened his eyes to the idea when they approached him about a countywide ordinance. The Versailles council is studying the proposal.

Midway’s ordinance bans discrimination in public accommodations, employment and housing based on sexual orientation, gender identity or familial status.

Along with Lexington, Louisville, Danville, Frankfort, Morehead and Vicco, a small coal-mining town in the Appalachian Mountains, Midway is the latest city in the state to include protections for LGBT people in their civil rights ordinance.

Vandegrift spoke alongside Rev. Donzella Lee of the Franklin-Simpson Human Rights Commission, Rep. Mary Lou Marzian, D-Louisville; Sen. Morgan McGarvey D-Louisville; Bob Brousseau, the director of corporate communications at Louisville-based Peptides International; and Patti Minter, a Western Kentucky University professor and leader in an effort to pass an ordinance in Bowling Green. Each person had a few minutes to testify their reason for supporting the bill.

In an interview with the Messenger after the hearing, Vandergrift said prohibiting discrimination of LGBT people statewide could also be good for the state economically.

“A lot of companies want to go to places where they feel like their workers and their families will be protected,” he said.

However, the bill will not be passed this session. The group did not ask for a vote because for fear that it would fail in the hands of the committee, Marzian said in an interview with the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Also on Wednesday, more than 100 people rallied in the Capitol rotunda in support of the bill,  including Democratic Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes.

Vandegrift said in the interview, “This truly is the right thing to do. If the history of progress is any indication, the future will shake its head at us if we don’t continue moving forward and expanding the borders of justice and equality.”

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