Kentucky town passes law to combat sexual discrimination

Jackson French

On Monday, Vicco passed the state’s first lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Fairness law in ten years.

The new law prohibits discrimination in housing, employment and public accommodations based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. With a population of 334, according to the 2010 Census, Vicco is the smallest town in the country to pass a fairness ordinance.

Chris Hartman, director of the Jefferson County-based Fairness Campaign and a member of the statewide Fairness Coalition, said he was not surprised by Vicco’s decision to pass the law.

“This is something that seemed logical,” Hartman said. “This is really simply a confirmation of what we’ve been hearing as we’ve worked throughout the entire state.”

Hartman also expects the law’s passage to “dispel many of the incorrect, unfair negative stereotypes about not just our state as a whole, but that eastern Kentucky Appalachia region.”

Scottsville junior and SIO President Andrew Salman is excitement about Vicco’s Fairness law.

“I’m glad to see it happening in Kentucky,” he said.

Salman also said the law will improve the state’s social climate and represents a step toward equality.

“Kentucky’s kind of behind the curve on stuff like that, and I’m glad to see it’s catching up,” Salman said.

A 2012 survey conducted by the Schapiro Group shows that 83 percent of Kentucky voters approve of anti-discrimination laws. For more than a decade, proposals for statewide fairness laws have been submitted annually to the state legislature but have yet to be discussed by the Kentucky General Assembly.

“For some reason, leaders have had a hesitancy to bring the law up for debate,” Hartman said.

With a lack of any serious discussion of statewide implementation, many grassroots movements throughout Kentucky have sprung up with the goal of passing fairness ordinances in their communities. Pushes for local anti-discrimination laws, many of them aided by the Fairness Coalition, have emerged in Berea, Richmond, Bowling Green, Elizabethtown and Shelbyville.

Salman and Hartman both said they think Vicco’s recent decision foreshadows an impending increase in anti-discrimination legislation. As the first fairness law to pass in Kentucky in a decade, Salman said he expects it to “rekindle a fire.”

“I really think it’s part of a bigger movement (and) that we’re going to see a lot more of them passing in the next year or two,” Salman said.

Hartman said if communities continue to pass their own fairness laws, “the state legislature is finally going to have to acknowledge that this is something Kentuckians agree upon and something they should correct uniformly at the statewide level.”

The Fairness Coalition plans to rally in front of the Kentucky State Capitol in Frankfort on Feb. 20 to call for a statewide fairness law. Though SIO has made no plans regarding the rally, Salman said he would be interested in taking a group to Frankfort for the event.

Hartman said he hopes 2013 will be the first year for a serious discussion of a statewide fairness bill in the Kentucky General Assembly. Though he acknowledges that such a law could potentially be passed this year, he said more local fairness laws will probably be needed to pave the way.