Thursday, October 24, 2013

DECISION OF THE UNITED WAY OF THE BLUEGRASS TO RESCIND FUNDING TO THE BLUE GRASS COUNCIL OF THE BOY SCOUTS OF AMERICA

"Decisions like this needlessly place Kentucky children in the crossfire,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “The Boy Scouts of America are already facing hostility for their good decisions earlier this year by permitting openly-gay scouts to join. The Boy Scouts National Council voted in May to allow openly gay youth to join but maintained its ban on gay leaders. Radical social conservatives are undercutting the Boy Scouts of America, terminating affiliations, discontinuing support, and trying to establish homophobic-based competing organizations. Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts of America, having made a positive step in resolving inequality issues, are now receiving attacks from pro-equality forces for not moving fast enough. The non-discrimination policy must be a new one for the United Way of the Bluegrass since they continued to fund them even when would not permit openly-gay scouts to join in previous years. This is a knee jerk reaction that sets a horrible example.

Organizations are fostering the very intolerance, anti-diversity, and anti-equality ‘traditional values’ we seek to eliminate, but I am sad to say that some are not practicing the very values we seek.

This is not a new issue, and the timing of this decision actually sets back the equality movement because it allows anti-equality forces to use this as anti-equality propaganda. Now is the time to acknowledge positive growth and support it, rather than to attack groups moving in the right direction, after all, Rome wasn't built in a day and neither will the fight for tolerance, diversity, and equality. The actions of the United Way solidify intolerance to an institution struggling to change.

It is our fear that, in this period of transition, we risk destroying an institution that brings positive value to the lives of children across the country. We ask the Boy Scouts of America to continue their progress. We also ask that progressive organizations not join forces with the radical social conservatives in exterminating the Boy Scouts over this issue. Institutions change over time, but that takes time and work. Now is a time for support and positive growth toward equality, not for using the hateful tactics of radical social conservatives against a group evolving toward modern equality."

In an email to Kentucky Equality Federation, this parent says it best: "Change takes time, and now is the time.  Many conservative groups have disassociated themselves from Scouting because of the progressive movement.  It is very damaging to Scouting to also be criticized by progressive groups."

“We request that United Way of the Bluegrass reconsider its decision in light of the damage it does to the equality movement and the children of Kentucky,” said Kentucky Equality Federation Vice President of Policy and Public Relations Joshua Koch. “While we support defunding legitimate anti-equality organizations, we recognize the advances made by the Boy Scouts, and we hope that they will continue to develop their standards in a more equal direction. We should reward their progress, and help them grow further in the future.”

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Kentucky Equality Federation sues the Commonwealth of Kentucky for marriage equality

On Tuesday, September 10, a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the Kentucky Equality Federation against the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

This lawsuit is the latest attempt to achieve equal rights and protections for families across the Commonwealth whose very existence has been banned by the forces of religious zealotry and hatred.

NOTE: A complete digital copy of Kentucky Equality Federation v. Commonwealth of Kentucky is available here in PDF format, the Case # 13-CI-1074. The lawsuit was conceived by President Jordan Palmer, written and signed by Vice President of Legal Jillian Hall, Esq., and Mark A. Morenz-Harbinger, Esq.

At the heart of the suit is the premise that the 2004 amendment to the Kentucky Constitution was passed in violation of the Constitution.

Jill Hall, Esq.,
Vice President of Legal
"In 2004, social conservatives, who normally try to hide behind the Constitution, decided that it wasn't good enough for them anymore," said Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer.

They decided to rewrite a document which guarantees freedom and to pervert it to fit their own jaded hatred of gay and lesbian couples. This was done despite the fact that it negated part of the bill of rights. We, as Kentuckians, must undo this immoral amendment which subverts the soul of our Commonwealth, our rights, and the government of Kentucky.

Lawmakers in Frankfort put something to the people for a vote that was unconstitutional if you read Kentucky’s constitution. The Kentucky constitution is the supreme governing document of the commonwealth; its provisions provide GREATER freedoms than the U.S. constitution.

Kentucky added a facially unconstitutional amendment to its constitution via a ballot initiative process. Thus, the attempt to abrogate constitutional sensibilities in favor of a ballot initiative, as was done for Section 233A of the Kentucky Constitution in 2004, is against the very notion of equal protection as guaranteed to each and all of Kentucky’s population. This should be held as true as a matter of law by the Courts, regardless of the ballot’s outcome."

"Fear of the LGBTI community reached a high-water mark after DOMA," said Kentucky Equality Federation Vice President of Policy & Public Relations Joshua Koch.

"Roving bands of lobbyists funded by extremist elements traveled the country for years vandalizing generations-old institutions and spreading lies and fear in several states. In 2004, they struck Kentucky, traditionally a leader in the region on civil rights, and managed to apply their graffiti to the Constitution, which had been in effect for 113 years. We are simply trying to undo the damage done."

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Concern about Henry Johnson as 26th Judicial Circuit Judge (former Commonwealth's Attorney)

Kentucky Equality Federation today expressed concern about the appointment of Henry Johnson, the former Commonwealth’s Attorney in Harlan as the circuit judge for the Commonwealth’s 26th Judicial Circuit [until December 2014].

During his tenure as commonwealth’s attorney, Johnson failed to prosecute hate crimes in Harlan County, namely the case of Misty Turner and later, Kevin Pennington. Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer was forced to ask the federal government to intervene.

Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer was also featured in several stories with U.S. Attorney Kerry Harvey and his commitment to prosecuting LGBTI hate crimes in Kentucky.

"Kentucky Equality Federation will continue to monitor the conduct of Judge Johnson and will report any indifference to enforce the laws of this Commonwealth both to the U.S. Department of Justice as well as the Kentucky Court of Justice Judicial Conduct Commission,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “Violent hate crimes do not just devastate the victim, they also send the message that some of our citizens are expendable, a message which will not be tolerated in our Commonwealth. We will not tolerate the slippery slope of allowing certain segments of our population to be victimized.

Though Johnson issued a summons for the accused in the Pennington case, the next day federal authorities took over the case. This is nothing short of political posturing on the part of the Johnson when he was the commonwealth’s attorney, as the citizens of Harlan saw that, something our attorneys later analyzed: http://community.kyequality.org/2012/10/kevin-pennington-hate-crime-trial.html

Misty Turner never saw any type of justice when Johnson was the Harlan Commonwealth’s Attorney; even after her family and children were assaulted in public. It is our sincere hope that Mr. Johnson now realizes the citizens of Harlan demand justice for all people, or they will be removed from office by their constituents as he was as commonwealth’s attorney.”

"The integrity and reliability of Kentucky’s criminal justice system has taken a major hit with the appointment of Johnson to the 26th Judicial Circuit,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation Regional Director Will Taylor. “I’m certain Johnson will not be reelected to the position given how easily he lost the last election and how indifferent Harlan citizens are to him.”

Kentucky Equality Federation is the Commonwealth's largest advocate for equal treatment of all citizens. As our mission statement explains, "Kentucky Equality Federation believes all people are endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment free from oppression, discrimination, school bullying, and hate crimes, regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, veteran status, political affiliation, or any other defining characteristic."

According to The Harlan Daily Enterprise:

“Now, therefore, I Steven L. Beshear, Governor of the Commonwealth of Kentucky, by virtue of the authority vested in me pursuant to Section 118 of the Constitution of Kentucky, do hereby appoint the Honorable Henry Stuart Johnson… to the office of Circuit Judge for the 26th Judicial Circuit, of Kentucky,” said the order issued by Beshear.

“Judge Johnson shall serve subject to the provisions of Section 152 of the Constitution of Kentucky.”

Johnson served as commonwealth’s attorney in Harlan for nearly 20 years, beginning in 1992. He is currently in private practice. Johnson received his law degree from the University of Kentucky and began practicing law in 1976, according to previous reports.

Johnson was succeeded as commonwealth’s attorney after losing re-election to current Commonwealth’s Attorney Parker Boggs.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Special Statement: What does DOMA being struck down mean for Kentucky?

Special Statement from Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer:  What does DOMA being struck down mean for Kentuckians?

Lexington, KY (Special Statement) - The U.S. Supreme Court today struck down section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), ending the federal government's discrimination against legally married same-sex couples.

The U.S. Supreme Court also ruled that Prop 8 was a decision for California with U.S. Chief Justice John Roberts stating: "We have no authority to decide this case on the merits, and neither did the 9th Circuit," Roberts said, referring to the federal appeals court that also struck down Proposition 8. This means the decision of the California Supreme Court will stand and Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

This is a great day for our Commonwealth and our country as we move closer to equality for all people. Though this will have little direct impact on Kentucky citizens, it does provide a well deserved slap on the face to Kentucky lawmakers to allow the citizens of this Commonwealth to vote on the issue of same-sex marriage again in Kentucky. While there is still more work to do to ensure equality and justice for all LGBTI citizens, these decisions are historic steps forward, and today is a great day for America.

As momentum for marriage equality continues to build, Kentucky Equality Federation and Marriage Equality Kentucky will continue to work in all regions of the Commonwealth to change the hearts and minds of people, one community at a time. We look forward to the day when the citizens of all states rescind their constitutional amendments and recognize that all people have the freedom to marry.

Today we are reminded that Kentuckians still fall short of justice and this ruling is more than anything, a call to action. For those of us who live in state's like Kentucky where our marriages are still not recognized, today's rulings are a reminder that we cannot wait for justice to be handed to us, we are going to have to get engaged and fight.

Today our rights as Americans are not based on our shared citizenship, but upon our geographic location. More than 86 million Americans, nearly one-third of the country, live in states with full marriage equality, with the state and federal protections families need. Today the U.S. Supreme Court has said we can go states like Minnesota or Iowa and get married, but we return to the Commonwealth of Kentucky legal strangers in our home state.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Ambassador of Goodwill Scottie Saltsman passes away


Kentucky Equality Federation acts as a public advocate for victims of school bullying, hate crimes, and discrimination. Kentucky Equality Federation is the Commonwealth’s largest equality organization with member organizations that include Marriage Equality Kentucky, the Kentucky HIV/AIDS Advocacy Campaign, and Kentucky Equality Ballot Access.

Kentucky Equality Federation has bestowed a rare award on Richmond gay activist Scottie Saltsman.  Saltsman is also a former police officer and a supervisor at the Kentucky Department of Criminal Justice Training.

The distinction of Ambassador of Goodwill is the highest honor given by Kentucky Equality Federation. A Kentucky Equality Federation Ambassador of Goodwill embodies the foundation of our Commonwealth: diversity, tolerance, liberty, justice, and equality for all.

"The distinction of Ambassador of Goodwill was so rare that only 14 people have made it through the approval process," stated Legal Assistant Lara Clay Drake with Kentucky Equality Federation’s Legal Department. "This is not an honor that is given to different people year after year, nor an annual award given to someone. The candidate must truly be remarkable and have shaped Kentucky culture in a positive manner."

The Honorable Scottie Saltsman was a Section Supervisor with the Kentucky Justice and Public Safety Cabinet’s Department of Criminal Justice Training. Saltsman was also involved in Native American issues and one of the primary activists that pushed for the creation of the Richmond Human Rights Commission for which he served as Secretary, a post he held until he resigned on April 12, 2012 because the Commission refused to add sexual orientation and gender identity to their definition of protected classes of people or communities in their local equality/fairness ordinance.

Upon receiving news of his distinction as Ambassador of Goodwill on June 03, 2013, Scottie Saltsman stated: “I feel special; it is an honor to be recognized by an organization that fights for people and touches people across the state with their work.”

Scottie Saltsman was alive to receive the distinction; the plaque, however, will be presented to Saltsman’s Mother at his request. Ambassador of Goodwill Saltsman succumbed to the cancer he had been battling on June 09, 2013.

Ambassador Saltsman joins former Kentucky Treasurer Jonathan Miller, blogger Jim Pence, senior Representative Tom Burch, senior Kentucky Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo, Author and Dr. Bernadette Barton, International Activist and Attorney Melanie Nathan, Minister Edith Baker, Ph.D., and others including FDA officials, Kentucky authors, musicians, religious leaders, elected officials and activists.

Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer stated: "We thank you and love you for all the incredible work you have done to advance equality across the Commonwealth of Kentucky. Your selfless accomplishments will never be forgotten and will indeed live forever. I thank you for your counsel and incredible friendship through the years. Knowing you and Matthew Vanderpool have been enormous highlights in my life. Ambassador of Goodwill Saltsman was a man of dignity and character who fought for the things he believed in. Though we continued to pray for a miracle, a greater power had different plans for you, but part of you will always be with us."


View Ambassador of Goodwill Scottie Saltsman's profile on Lexington Clinic: “In early 2012, Scottie began treatment for what he and his physician initially thought were internal hemorrhoids. When his symptoms did not improve, he underwent a new battery of tests and was told a biopsy would be needed. "My testing was done on March 21, 2012. On March 22, Dr. William Walton called to inform me it was cancer, and to tell me that he felt we needed to expedite our next steps," said Scottie. His diagnosis was Stage III b anal cancer, a rare form of cancer that predominantly affects men, but also strikes women. "The biggest challenge for me after learning I had cancer was just to work through the mental process that accompanies that diagnosis," said Scottie. "It is so important to stay positive and to try not to worry about what could be, or to think ‘why me’, because the moment you mentally give up, it’s over."

Source: http://www.lexingtonclinic.com/cancer/scottiesaltsman.html

About Kentucky Equality Federation's Ambassadors of Goodwill:  An Ambassador of Goodwill is appointed by the Chairman of the Board of Directors on the advice of the President (an existing Ambassador of Goodwill may also nominate someone to the President for the distinction). An Ambassador of Goodwill ceremony is scheduled for August in Lexington. Due to the illness of Ambassador Saltsman, his award was expedited at the request of President Jordan Palmer and approved by Board Chairman Brandon Combs.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Battle continues with Logan County Schools for Religious Materials Distribution; Final Warning Issued

We are writing again in response to Gideons Bibles being distributed in the Commonwealth’s school system. We find your response to us dated February 25, 2013 unacceptable.

--> Download a complete copy from our Legal Department.

You stated: “[t]he Board, however, will continue to consider these and other important constitutional issues and will examine this issue with an eye toward adopting guidelines by the 2013-2014 school year.”

As our letter to Mr. Kemp dated January 31, 2013 made clear, it is the position of Kentucky Equality Federation that the Logan County School Board’s relationship with Gideons International is in direct violation of the United States Constitution and Section V of the Kentucky Constitution.

I appreciate that the Board will no longer be allowing Gideons International to infringe upon the constitutional rights of Logan County students for the remainder of the school year and that you appear to be following Kentucky Equality Federation's CEASE AND DESIST ORDER. However, I am concerned that your letter indicates that the Board may develop policies allowing Gideons International back into the school setting later, rather than terminating your relationship with Gideons International, or any other strictly religious organization, as I requested in my previous letter.

Despite your indication that you disagree with the case law on this issue, to date, the United States Supreme Court has interpreted the First Amendment to prevent the establishment of religion in public schools. The establishment clause bars third parties as well as school officials from using school property to coerce children into believing one faith over another.

Kentucky Equality Federation
Vice President of Legal
Jillian Hall, Esq.
In Santa Fe Independent School Dist. v. Doe, the Court noted that just because school officials did not engage in religious activities at a school event, the fact that the activity was occurring on school property and pursuant to a school policy meant that it was, “stamped with [the] school’s seal of approval,” and therefore, a violation of the establishment clause. 530 U.S. 290, 308 (2000).

The situation before us is even more egregious than the school’s conduct in Santa Fe, because Gideons’ impermissible conduct is occurring during school hours rather than at a school-sponsored event. When religious activity occurs during school hours, there is an even higher chance of coercion because both the state and the child’s peer group may collude to advance a religious position so that, “children [may be] exposed to ostracism from their peer group members if they [do not] participate.” Wallace v. Jaffree, 472 U.S. 38, 42 (1985).

It is clear from U.S. Supreme Court precedent alone that Gideons International may not hand out bibles in the Logan County Schools without violating constitutions of the United States and the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Kentucky Equality Federation
Legal Assistant
Laura C. Drake
Other federal case law contains additional strong support for the fact that the Constitution does not allow Gideons International in the public school system. While neither the Supreme Court nor any court in our jurisdiction has addressed the issue of the Gideons International bible program in public schools, several courts have considered the issue directly and found Gideons’ conduct to be an establishment of religion by the state and unconstitutional.

In Berger v. Rensselaer Cent. School Corp., the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals first pointed out the coercive element of Gideons International on school premises when it stated “the only reason the Gideons find schools a more amenable point of solicitation than, say, a church or local mall, is ease of distribution since all children are compelled by law to attend school and the vast majority attend public school.” 982 F.2d 1160, 1167 (1993). The court then had no trouble concluding that the school board, “acted with state authority in welcoming the Gideons into public schools,” and that Gideons International’s distribution of bibles was an impermissible infringement upon the schoolchildren’s constitutional right. Id. at 1169.

The 7th Circuit is joined by several district courts in finding that the distribution of bibles by Gideons International in the public school setting is unconstitutional. E.g., Goodwin v. Cross County School Dist., 394 F. Supp. 417 (E.D. Ark. 1963); Chandler v. James, 985 F. Supp. 1094 (M.D. Ala. 1997); Roark v. South Iron R-1 School Dist., 540 F. Supp. 2d 1047 (E.D. Mo. 2008).

As demonstrated above, binding U.S. Supreme Court precedent indicates that Logan County Schools may not allow Gideons International to pass out bibles in its schools; federal lower court case law supports this finding with reference to Gideons International specifically.

To the extent that your letter indicates the Logan County School Board’s willingness to allow Gideons International back into the Logan County schools at a future date, Kentucky Equality Federation restates its position that this action would violate both the commonwealth and federal constitutions.

As I mentioned in my first letter, I hope that this issue can be settled amicably in a manner that satisfies all parties. I trust that you will convey this letter to the board and again ask for their assurances that Gideons International will no longer be allowed to distribute bibles on Logan County School premises and that Logan County Schools has dropped any and all relationships with strictly religious organizations.

No additional warnings will be issued. Should the Logan County School Board permit Gideon Bibles to be distributed again, the school, the school board, and every member of the Board will be sued separately and individually in addition to the Kentucky Education Cabinet.

Please reference the first letter I sent to you: http://www.kyequality.org/2013/logan-county-cease.pdf

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Kentucky House overrides Governor's veto of House Bill 279

House Bill 279 Statement

Jordan Palmer, President

Kentucky Equality Federation is extremely disappointed with House leadership for overriding House Bill 279, the "Forced Religion Imposition Act."  Allowing the House Democratic Caucus to vote 'anonymously' to decide to override the veto isn't open government and it isn't transparency, it is however cowardly. 

People and organizations around the commonwealth from mayors to citizen activists organized to oppose this dreadful and hurtful legislation. Kentucky Equality Federation has pushed to have this bill vetoed before it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats, this is legislation we couldn't kill with a simple telephone call or meeting.

House Bill 279 does nothing more than give people permission to discriminate based on their religious beliefs thereby taking it beyond ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘forced religion’ because they can impose their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so.

Kentucky lawmakers needed to define language in House Bill 279 before it became law such as what constitutes a ‘burden’ and what constitutes a ‘substantial’ burden to someone’s religious beliefs.

As noted by our Vice President of Legal, Jillian Hall, Esq., similar laws to this proposed bill have been passed in several other states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1997 (as applied to the states), though it remains federal law.

Until last night however, this law did not apply to the commonwealth of Kentucky.
As I have said before, the Kentucky Democratic Party is out of touch with the national Democratic Party. However, this was expected, given the continued loses Democrats have suffered since the 2010 election to Tea Party Republicans, Democrats cannot appear to be soft on Religion. Even with loses, this does not justify sacrificing your political beliefs.

Still, it remains to be seem if House Bill 279 can withstand a court challenge which our legal department is working on now. 

In the future, because of threats related to House Bill 279, not only will our toll-free number override anonymous callers, but being calling the Office of Chairman of the Board (the Chair and Vice Chair) or members of the Office of the President (the President and all Vice Presidents) will be recorded.  One lady also called to ask if it was legal to say LGBTI people are abominations at the rally the Family Foundation of Kentucky held on Tuesday.

House Bill 279 has the potential to harm local ordinances in place in Covington, Louisville, Lexington and Vicco.  Kentucky Equality Federation's legal department will sue the commonwealth of Kentucky with the first complaint we receive that House Bill 279 has been used to justify discrimination, termination, or school bullying regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

People also made threats about the Red State Brief which Kentucky Equality Federation signed with 25 other statewide organizations with the U.S. Supreme Court. The brief contends that many local state laws are designed to routinely deny gay citizens basic civil rights, and many state codes are woven in a tangle that can only be unraveled by the courts.

Kentucky Equality Federation again thanks every person and every organization who made a stand with us on the right side of history.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Governor Beshear Vetoes House Bill 279

STATEMENT ON HOUSE BILL 279

Jordan Palmer, President

The Kentucky Equality Federation is ecstatic to hear and report of Governor Beshear's veto of House Bill 279, the 'Forced Religion Imposition Act.'

I have spoken in detail to officials in the Governor's Office as well as senior Representative Ruth Ann Palumbo, also the chair of the House Standing Committee on Economic Development about House Bill 279. Senior Representative Palumbo changed her vote once she realized the far reaching implications House Bill 279 has.

People and organizations around the commonwealth from mayors to citizen activists organized to oppose this dreadful and hurtful legislation. Kentucky Equality Federation has pushed to have this bill vetoed before it passed the Senate Judiciary Committee, but with overwhelming support from Republicans and Democrats, this is legislation we couldn't kill with a simple telephone call or meeting.

Governor Beshear is pushing Kentucky to once again being a leader in civil rights protection for minorities throughout the Commonwealth by not infringing on their city equality ordinances in Covington, Lexington, Louisville, and Vicco.

We applaud Steve Beshear for being an effective Governor and Commander-in-Chief; to quote Martin Luther King, Jr., ‘A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus,’ and Governor Beshear has done exactly that.

Both Republicans and Democrats need to think carefully before deciding to override a veto since the governor and his legal staff has listened to both sides of the argument.

House Bill 279 did nothing more than give people permission to discriminate based on their religious beliefs thereby taking it beyond ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘forced religion’ because they have imposed their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so.

Kentucky lawmakers needs to first define language in House Bill 279 before it becomes law. What constitutes a ‘burden’ is undefined in the proposed law. One of the amendments proposed and accepted by Representative Owens also fails to qualify what a ‘substantial’ burden to someone’s religious beliefs are.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Kentucky Equality Federation letter to Governor Beshear to veto House Bill 279

Kentucky Equality Federation urges Governor Steve Beshear to veto House Bill 279, the "FORCED RELIGION IMPOSITION ACT."

Click here to view a copy in PDF.

The Honorable Steve Beshear
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
Capitol Office 700 Capitol Avenue
Suite 100
Frankfort, Kentucky 40601

The Honorable Steve Beshear
Governor and Commander-in-Chief of the Commonwealth of Kentucky
The Governor's Mansion
704 Capitol Avenue
Frankfort, KY 40601

Kentucky Equality Federation, a non-government (NGO), non-profit organization with United Nations NGO observer and consultative status for minority issues hereby urges you to veto House Bill 279 for reasons outlined below. Kentucky Equality Federation has no doubt this legislation will pass the Senate having passed the House of Representatives.

Kentucky Equality Federation is Kentucky's largest all-volunteer grassroots lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex ("LGBTI") civil rights and advocacy organization for both social and political equality. 
Kentucky Equality Federation believes all people are endowed with inalienable rights to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness and fulfillment free from oppression, discrimination, school bullying, and hate crimes regardless of gender identity, sexual orientation, race, creed, veteran status, political affiliation, or any other defining characteristic. 
The end of discrimination is not simply the elimination of flagrant abuses, rather it is the ability of a person to fully exercise their Kentucky human rights to the same full extent enjoyed by their peers, without fear of retribution, aspersion, or harm, be that harm political or social.
We assist and act as public advocate for people who have been bullied, discriminated against, or victimized in addition to assisting them with legal remedies. 
When the laws have not caught up to the moral needs of society, we will seek their modification, pursuant to the creation of a just society. 

Kentucky Equality Federation also asks if House Bill 279 would violate your executive order 2008-0473, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Kentucky’s Government.

FOLLOWING ARE COMMENTS BY PRESIDENT JORDAN PALMER:  
The emancipation of slaves, voting rights for women, and the civil rights movements were landmark victories for the cause of equality, but this struggle continues today and House Bill 279 is nothing short of legal discrimination against a minority group otherwise unprotected by the laws of this commonwealth.

House Bill 279 represents a clear and present danger to the gay and lesbian community and other minority groups around the commonwealth. Both the Kentucky and U.S. constitution provide for freedom of religion and Kentucky Equality Federation supports freedom of religion.

As you know, in 2010 the Kentucky House of Representatives passed Resolution 232, the Manhattan Declaration making Christianity the official religion of the Commonwealth.

House Bill 279 does nothing more than give people permission to discriminate based on their religious beliefs thereby taking it beyond ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘forced religion’ because they have imposed their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so.

FOLLOWING ARE COMMENTS BY VICE PRESIDENT OF LEGAL JILLIAN HALL, Esq.:
House Bill 279 has the potential to harm local ordinances in place in Covington, Louisville, Lexington and Vicco.

Essentially, an individual can continue to discriminate against a gay individual in violation of the ordinance and be protected under this new law by showing that it is in conflict with their closely held religious beliefs. While the language adding “substantial” to the burden (via an amendment to the bill) does add some protections, the law still is a major step backward for the equality movement.

Right now, people discriminate freely and openly against the gay community without recourse due to the lack of a Kentucky statewide equality law.

Similar laws to this proposed bill have been passed in several other states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1997 (as applied to the states).

This law is nothing more than a poor recitation of the First Amendment, and is a thinly veiled move by the legislature showing their lack of respect or tolerance for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex community (LGBTI).

While I do not feel that this will significantly affect anything in the courts, this law, along with the Manhattan Declaration of 2010 acts to block forward progress and is a continued embarrassment for the Commonwealth.

FINAL COMMENTS BY PRESIDENT JORDAN PALMER:
Governor, today the U.S. President signed domestic violence protections which included the LGBTI community. Though we support the sovereignty of the commonwealth of Kentucky against an oversized and intrusive federal government, we have no choice but to continue to turn to them for protections because our Kentucky lawmakers continue to fail us.

We again appeal to you to as our chief of state and chief of government to veto House Bill 279.

Please feel free to contact us with any questions you may have regarding this matter toll-free at (877) KEF-5775 – Ext. 5.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Kentucky Equality Federation Condemns House Bill 279 - Forced Religious Imposition Act

KENTUCKY EQUALITY FEDERATION RESPONDS TO HOUSE BILL 279
CONDEMNS 'FORCED RELIGION IMPOSITION ACT'

“Kentucky House Bill 279 lays the groundwork for legalized discrimination and is detrimental to the equal rights movement for all LGBTI residents of the Commonwealth,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation’s Chairman of the Board, Brandon Combs. “This legislation also has the potential to negatively impact a wide-range of individuals beyond the LGBTI community, such as single parents and divorced couples. The passing of this legislation threatens to push the state back to the 1960s prior to the passage of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.”

“House Bill 279 represents a clear and present danger to the gay and lesbian community and other minority groups around the commonwealth,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer. “Thousands of Kentuckians are opposing the legislation. We urge Governor Steve Beshear to veto the legislation. Both the Kentucky and U.S. constitutions provide for freedom of religion and Kentucky Equality Federation supports freedom of religion. However, what we need is freedom from religion; lawmakers use religion as a means to deny someone a fundamental civil right. In 2010 the Kentucky House of Representatives passed Resolution 232, the Manhattan Declaration making Christianity the official religion of the Commonwealth. (voting record). House Bill 279 does nothing more than give people permission to discriminate based on their religious beliefs thereby taking it beyond ‘freedom of religion’ to ‘forced religion’ because they have imposed their religious beliefs on others with legal authority to do so.

KENTUCKY EQUALITY FEDERATION - LEGAL DEPARTMENT SUMMARY:

To break it down, Kentucky Equality Federation’s Vice President of Legal, Jillian Hall, Esq. stated: “House Bill 279 has the potential to harm local ordinances in place in Louisville, Lexington and Vicco. Essentially, an individual can continue to discriminate against a gay individual in violation of the ordinance and be protected under this new law by showing that it is in conflict with their closely held religious beliefs. While the language adding “substantial” to the burden (via an amendment to the bill) does add some protections, as it is very difficult to meet the level of “substantial burden” in the courts (as would have to be shown by the discriminating party), the law still is a major step backward for the equality movement."

Hall continued:  "Right now, people discriminate freely and openly against the gay community without recourse due to the lack of a Kentucky statewide equality law. Similar laws to this proposed bill have been passed in several other states after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the U.S. Religious Freedom Restoration Act in 1997 (as applied to the states). This law is nothing more than a poor recitation of the First Amendment, and is a thinly veiled move by the legislature showing their lack of respect or tolerance for the LGBTI community. While I do not feel that this will significantly affect anything in the courts, this law, along with the Manhattan Declaration of 2010 as mentioned by Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer, acts to block forward progress and is a continued embarrassment for the Commonwealth.”

Kentucky Equality Federation will continue to monitor House Bill 279 and may challenge it in court if it undermines equality efforts.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Red State Brief filed with U.S. Supreme Court - Kentucky Equality Federation represents Kentucky gay couples

Kentucky Equality Federation urges universal equality for all LGBTI people in a "Friend of the Court" brief to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Kentucky Equality Federation today joined the Utah Pride Center, Campaign for Southern Equality, and twenty-five (25) other organizations in filing an amicus brief with the United States Supreme Court.

The brief urges the justices to strike down a wide range of anti-gay laws. The brief calls on the Court to uphold appellate court rulings in both the Defense of Marriage and Proposition 8 cases currently pending. The Kentucky Equality Federation joined Utah Pride in this “Red State Brief” to detail the long history of anti-gay legislation in many states around the nation that denigrates the LGBT community.

The brief contends that many local state laws are designed to routinely deny gay citizens basic civil rights, and many state codes are woven in a tangle that can only be unraveled by the courts.

“This brief is about arguing on behalf of the millions of Americans who feel hopeless that legislation on a state level will ever advance their cause,” said Utah Pride Attorney and former Bush Administration U.S. Attorney Brett Tolman. The brief contends that many local state laws are designed to routinely deny gay citizens basic civil rights, and many state codes are woven in a tangle that can only be unraveled by the courts.

Kentucky Equality
Federation Vice-
President of Legal,
Attorney Jillian Hall.
Kentucky Equality Federation's Vice President of Legal, Jillian Hall headed-up Kentucky Equality Federation's involvement. Kentucky Equality Federation represents Kentucky in the brief.

“It was an honor to sign alongside several other prominent equality organizations in our fellow conservative “red” states. By working together as one rather than 28 individual groups, we were able to present a united front to the U.S. Supreme Court and explain why their decision not only impacts the individual cases before the bench, but everyone in the LGBTI community unable to obtain the same benefits as their heterosexual counterparts,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation Vice President of Legal, Jillian Hall. "Recognition from the highest federal court in the land as to the equality of everyone concerning marriage, regardless of sexual orientation, would be a huge leap in the fight for the citizens of our Commonwealth."

"Marriage is a fundamental human right and the lack of recognition by the federal government to gay couples legally married in their home states should be unconstitutional," stated Kentucky Equality Federation president Jordan Palmer. "Section II of the Kentucky Constitution states: 'Absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic, not even in the largest majority.' However, with the commonwealth's 2004 constitutional amendment, gay and lesbian couples are absolutely denied civil rights by the majority."

Rev. Jasmine Beach-Ferrara, Executive Director of the Campaign for Southern Equality said, “The Supreme Court is being asked to consider a fundamental question: are LGBT Americans equal people whose humanity and dignity must be recognized? We know there are LGBT youth, adults and families who urgently need - and desire - the rights and protections that our Constitution promises to all, including the ability to marry the person you love.”

“There is a system of discrimination set up in states like Utah where certain local laws offend the Constitution and do harm to the lives of gay Americans,” said Attorney for Utah Pride Paul Burke.

The brief points out a number of discriminatory local laws including lack of protection for gay married military members who are assigned to “red states.”

Today’s filing concludes: “Because the Constitution neither knows nor tolerates classes among its citizens, gay Americans must be treated equally under the law – everywhere. This Court should affirm the fundamental rights of gay Americans and adopt heightened scrutiny to review laws targeting gay people. The best way to stop discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is for this Court to stop de jure discrimination against gay Americans.”

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for these cases on March 26-27, 2013.

The Red State amicus brief can be found here: http://www.kyequality.org/2013/BRIEF-with-highlights.pdf

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Cease and Desist Order issued to Logan County Schools by Kentucky Equality Federation

Kentucky Equality Federation today issued a "Cease and Desist Order" to Logan County Schools for the distribution of Bibles in their school district.  This is yet another school district in the commonwealth which has required a warning. (previous press release).

SUMMARY: I am the Vice President of Legal for the Kentucky Equality Federation, and write on behalf of the organization to support Ms. Alms and any other parents who rightfully find issue with the practice of allowing this distribution on school property, as it is in direct violation of both the U.S. Constitution and Section V of the Kentucky Constitution.

In your most recent response, you cited the case Peck v. Upshur Co. Board of Educ., 155 F.3d 274 (4th Cir. 1998). While this case (which as you know is only persuasive, not binding in the Commonwealth of Kentucky) does address the issue of Bible distribution in public schools and permits a passive offering of such materials in a limited manner, the Court specifically finds this Constitutional only as it applies to secondary school students. The court noted that “in elementary schools, the concerns animating the coercion principle are at their strongest because of the impressionability of young elementary-age children. (read the entire cease and desist order)

STATEMENTS:

Administration:

"I believe in God and I know God loves all people. I am a practicing Christian, and I also practice Taoism. However, a public school is not the proper venue to distribute religious materials of any type," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "This practice will cease immediately or I will instruct our legal department to sue the Logan County School District. I will teach my children about religion at home. We again are notifying the Kentucky Department of Education and the Office of Kentucky Education Secretary, Mr. Joseph U. Meyer."

Kentucky Equality Federation's Religious Outreach Director, Minister Edith Baker, Ph.D. again stated: "Here is the foundation of this matter; if Christians are 'allowed to pass out Bibles,’ then all other religion and non religious groups, including the 'Church of Satan' will have this right. As a Christian believer since childhood, and an ordained minister, I believe we have enough homes, churches and other public venues to provide this service."

Board of Directors:

"Simply stated, what is occurring in Logan County schools is unconstitutional," stated Kentucky Equality Federation's Chairman of the Board, Brandon Combs. "The response given by the Logan County School District's hired counsel is a red herring, at best. At worst, it demonstrates the acceptance of negligent behavior by the district's personnel. This incident occurred in an elementary school. At this age range, religious studies should be directed by the each student's family, not the school district."

Speaking about the response received from the school, Kentucky Equality Federation's Vice Chairman, Gary Fowler, PsyD, CDC/ASPH Fellow stated: "I think the response provided by the school district’s attorney is a standard scapegoat. The case cited had no bearing on this case as was quoted regarding allowing the passive distribution of these materials. It is my understanding and their admission that this was anything but a passive distribution because each child was handed the material and expected to take it. Also, the letter eludes to the individual distributing these materials as a long time member of the community which in turn, at least to me, suggests that the knowledge of what type of material this man was bringing for active distribution was implied."

# # # # # #

--> Sign now to urge the Kentucky Legislature to amend the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Special Statement from the Chairman of the Board

SPECIAL STATEMENT FROM THE BOARD CHAIRMAN

"The continued pursuit of equality ordinances throughout the Commonwealth is not a logical use of the time, resources, and skills of equality advocates and their allies," stated Kentucky Equality Federation's Chairman of the Board, Brandon Combs.

"With 120 counties and 15 major cities in Kentucky, if we get one local equality ordinance a year, it will take over a century to achieve equality, but this doesn't include smaller cities and unincorporated areas of the Commonwealth.

Amending one law, the Kentucky Civil Rights Act of 1966, would impact the entire LGBTI population and its allies throughout the Commonwealth, rather than small incremental populations achieved with municipal ordinances.

This has been made clear in a previous press release, it is the Kentucky House of Representatives who continue to stall the passage of such a law. As it currently stands, many groups are getting 'special rights' and protections such as veterans, national origin, smoking status, and family status just to name a few. No protections from Frankfort are extended to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex community under the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.

The passage of local ordinances could also once again provoke the Kentucky House or Senate into passing a law rescinding the authority of cities to pass civil rights ordinances since the Commonwealth of Kentucky already has a civil rights law and occupies this area of government."

--> Sign now to urge the Kentucky Legislature to amend the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to include sexual orientation and gender identity.


Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Special Rights for Some; Kentucky House of Representatives continues to stall Statewide Equality Law

JOINT STATEMENTS (in order):
Jordan Palmer, President
Brandon Combs, Chairman of the Board
Jillian Hall, Esq., Vice President of Legal
Mike Mansfield, Frankfort Council Organizer with MoveOn.org

FRANKFORT, KY – "The Commonwealth of Kentucky was the first state South of the Mason-Dixon line to pass a Civil Rights Act, the Kentucky Civil Rights Act of 1966," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "The Kentucky Civil Rights Act was signed into law by Governor Edward T. Breathitt, and prohibits discrimination and protects people from discrimination based on race, national origin, color, and religion.

The Kentucky Civil Rights Act has been amended many times to include protected groups based on familial status, disability, age, collective bargaining agreements, a protection from discrimination because a person does or does not smoke (KRS 344.040), to name a few. However, sexual orientation and gender identity have never been included as a protected group in Kentucky. Kentucky Equality Federation receives regular complaints from the Commonwealth’s citizens about employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Kentucky, once the leader in civil rights, has fallen behind other states without question due to the lack of action by the Kentucky Legislature to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. Indeed, due to said lack of action, subdivisions of the Commonwealth have created their own civil rights agencies with less success, less funding, and fewer resources than the Commonwealth’s principal agency responsible for enforcing and ordering correction or remedial action in discrimination cases.

Though legislation is filed yearly to add these protections, the Kentucky House and Senate stall the proposed additions. It is both unethical and immoral to deny a targeted group of people protection under the law while giving special rights to others. However, the subject of adding sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected group has never even passed a Committee vote to go to the full floor of either Chamber.

However, after consulting both Republican and Democratic leadership, the moral act of adding sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class, not to mention repealing Kentucky’s 2004 Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships does not pass Committee even though each respective Committee in the House have had enough votes for years to get this critical legislation to the full floor, bringing it closer to being passed into law.

Why file legislation if you do not intend to push it and ensure the Committee Chair doesn't kill it in Committee, especially considering the House has enough votes to get both out of Committee? The only answer can be that House Democrats fear reprisal from the Kentucky Democratic Party and the House Caucus.

The Governor has made his position clear by enacting an executive order 2008-0473, prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in Kentucky’s Government. The U.S. President similarly made his position clear, with the U.S. Vice President going so far as to be the first, highest ranking elected federal official to be in favor of gender neutral marriage, and the position of the U.S. President mirroring the Vice President’s a few days later.

The Kentucky Democratic Party is both out of sync and out of touch with the national Democratic Party. The Democratic Platform states: “We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.”

Per the U.S. Bill of Rights which the Commonwealth of Kentucky ratified, the federal government and the states share joint, parallel sovereignty. People can scream federal overreach until they turn blue, but when our Frankfort lawmakers continue to fail us; we are left with no other option but to appeal to our lawmakers in the District of Columbia, the Kentucky Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

People in Frankfort tout Kentucky sovereignty against an oversized and intrusive federal government in circumstances hardly believable because the reliability of the Kentucky Legislative to do what is best for the Commonwealth and protect all of her citizens has been stretched beyond belief."

Palmer concluded: "I urge the Commonwealth's lawmakers to willfully place Kentucky back in the forefront of civil rights; without adding sexual orientation and gender identity you have effectively given "special rights" to other protected classes including national origin, religious beliefs, family status, age, and race, amongst others. If our lawmakers want to show Kentucky sovereignty and freedom, do it now before the order to do so is handed down by the courts."

"The fact that our Kentucky lawmakers continue to refuse to act is an unacceptable failing on the part of our allies," stated Kentucky Equality Federation Chairman Brandon Combs. “At this juncture we must seriously evaluate our position, and take the next step, for the betterment of our Commonwealth. Priority legislation has sat idly in committees for far too long. The Board supports President Jordan Palmer in taking every step necessary to move these legislative priorities from their pigeonhole in committees, including reactivating our political action committees to both fund and endorse candidates who support our Mission Statement. We will get these legislative priorities from their pigeonhole in House committees."

Kentucky Equality Federation's Vice President of Legal, Attorney Jillian Hall added: "As part of the Office of the President and head of the legal department it saddens me that the people in Frankfort will not act. As a member of the straight community I fervently believe all people are entitled to equality and to be treated the same under Kentucky laws. The Kentucky Legislature should not have to wait for the federal government to do it for us, and given the lack of progress by our legislature to protect its citizens, every Kentucky citizen should be outraged."

Mike Mansfield a Frankfort Council Organizer with MoveOn.org stated: “Many of those who call themselves progressive Democrats are homophobic. I understand them pretty well, though. I was part of their "club" until about 1993."

Monday, January 14, 2013

Paducah Middle School Receives High Marks Responding to School Bullying

PADUCAH, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation officials recently contacted Paducah Middle School about bullying complaints. Due to the severity of one of complaints, with one child saying she was considering suicide, the complaint was pulled from the School Bullying Committee and handled directly by Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer and Attorney Jillian Hall, Vice President of Legal.

For a copy of the letter Kentucky Equality Federation sent to the school, follow this link: http://www.kyequality.org/2012/paducah-warning.pdf

"School officials immediately responded and took swift action," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “We cannot stress enough the impact school bullying has on the Commonwealth's youth and sincerely thank Paducah Middle School, from the school attorney, school principal, guidance counselors, and other members of the school in administration for their immediate action. Paducah Middle School should be a model to the rest of the schools in the Commonwealth for their swift action and immediate response. It is possible a life was saved due to their immediate response to our letter."

Palmer continued: "Regardless of the circumstances, children need to know they can go to school officials with bullying. It must be reported to the principal who must then report it to the County Attorney for investigation. The attitude to enforce Kentucky law however is set from the principal down and we again applaud Principal Tim Huddleston, Paducah Middle School's faculty and staff, and their legal representation, Mark Whitlow, an outstanding individual."

Kentucky Equality Federation attorney Jillian Hall added: "What a pleasure it was working with Paducah officials, and reaching a successful outcome without issue. Other Kentucky school systems should really look to the Paducah Middle School for a framework for change in their own programs."