EDITORIAL: Pride Fest is progress, still need a Fairness Ordinance

The Issue: Bowling Green has continuously failed to pass a fairness ordinance, which provides legal protections against discrimination for members of the LGBTQ community. The 2015 Municipal Equality Index gave Bowling Green the lowest equality rating in Kentucky (17 out of 100).

Our Stance: Bowling Green’s first ever Pride Festival, which took place this past Saturday, sends a clear message of what the people of Bowling Green want: legislation that is fair to all people. It is time for the City Commission to listen to its constituency and make this ordinance law.

This past Saturday, supporters of LGBTQ rights came out in droves for Bowling Green’s first ever Pride Festival and subsequent Pride Crawl. The Pride Crawl was an act of protest against businesses who don’t support the fairness ordinance, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Participants in the “Love Takes Over” Pride Crawl spoke with their wallets this past weekend when they only supported businesses that are in favor of this LGBTQ friendly piece of legislation. As it is no secret that the current mayor of Bowling Green, Bruce Wilkerson, is against the fairness ordinance, perhaps the threat of intolerant businesses failing will persuade the City Commission to take action.

There is no valid reason for Bowling Green to lack a fairness ordinance. The claim that serving members of the LGBTQ community will infringe upon business owners’ individual liberties is merely a thinly-veiled attempt at discrimination. Natalie Boddeker, the owner of an LGBTQ-friendly business called “Zest, Juice for Life,” put it best when she stated “all people should be treated with dignity and respect.”

It seems that Wilkerson and the City Commission, who refuse to act on this issue out of fear they won’t get voted in again by those who have continued to support them, don’t truly believe that dignity and respect should be afforded to all people.

The fact that Bowling Green is the third largest city in Kentucky and has still yet to adopt a fairness ordinance cannot be fully blamed on the inaction of local politicians.

Voters who want a fairness ordinance put in place have the responsibility of educating themselves on which members of the City Commission support the ordinance and which do not. Otherwise, we will never escape the cycle of frustration which is to hope our elected leaders will act in the best interests of our community and then continue to be disappointed.

While the city of Bowling Green is on the lower end of the spectrum in terms of equality, students at WKU have shown that they would be in favor of a fairness ordinance. The Queer Student Union is a major group on campus that has provided solace to those adversely affected by discrimination.

It is clear Wilkerson and members of the City Commission need to alter their mindset on this issue, even if it does cost them at the polls. What’s the point of having an extensive political career if you didn’t take every opportunity to extend equal rights to marginalized groups in the community?

However, we as citizens also have the responsibility, and influence for that matter, to kick people out of office that don’t afford dignity and respect to all humans. This means we must keep up with the stances of local politicians on these hot button issues or risk not progressing as a society.