Thursday, June 23, 2011

Kentucky Equality Federation, the City of Hazard, and Mending Hearts close the case on the incident involving two gay men forced to leave The Pavilion

After consulting Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman, City Manager Carlos Combs, and City Attorney Paul R. Collins, Kentucky Equality Federation is satisfied with the actions of the City of Hazard. No additional information will be released other than this press release.

"Today, after having additional conversations with the City of Hazard, our legal representation, and Hazard officials, we are satisfied with the actions of the City," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "Kentucky Equality Federation was asked to intervene by Mending Hearts, Inc. to protect the interests of their clients. Mayor Nan Gorman, City Manager Carlos Combs, and City Attorney Paul R. Collins have stated that all people are welcome at The Pavilion, stating the facility 'is available for use without regard to race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, age, sexual orientation or physical/mental disability, etc.'

  • Kentucky Equality Federation requested 'gender identity' be added to the list of non-discrimination rules at The Pavilion which the City Attorney was receptive to. As a result, Kentucky Equality Federation plans no legal action and believes Hazard sets a positive example for all cities in both Southern Kentucky and the entire Commonwealth.

We have a very positive relationship with the highest levels of Hazard's government.

The employee who ejected Mending Hearts and their clients from The Pavilion was suspended for five (5) days and ordered to undergo some type of sensitivity training. In addition, the facility manager was reprimanded for 'conduct unbecoming a city employee,' and the City has ordered The Pavilion staff to 'undergo additional training regarding non-discrimination laws and regulations.'

An official apology has also been issued by the Mayor and City Attorney. After speaking to Mending Hearts owner Ollie Adams she is also very satisfied with the City's response as are the two gay men involved in the incident. Mending Hearts and the witnesses present however maintain that one of the men simply sat on the others knee."

Adams stated: "I want to thank everyone at Kentucky Equality Federation for standing up for our clients, both Mending Hearts and the two men involved are happy with this outcome."

Palmer continued, "We extend our thanks to City officials for acting in a responsible manner, and recognizing that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) community of the Commonwealth are individuals also with human rights.

The LGBTI community are your neighbors, friends, co-workers, and family members, and the only thing we seek is equality and to be treated with the same dignity and respect as any other citizen.

As Kentuckians we cannot allow the actions of any one person nor any one group to undermine to progress we have made, and I pray that we continue to do so in a positive manner. After having additional conversations with City officials, I believe this will be the case.

As a community we must now practice restraint, we had a very successful protest/rally, and our voices did not fall on deaf ears; had this incident occurred in any other City in Southern Kentucky, we doubt we would have come to a final conclusion today, and we would most likely be preparing for a court battle. As a community, we must understand that there will always be someone who will oppose us and how Kentucky Equality Federation deals with them will depend on each unique situation."

Joshua Koch, Director of Public and Media Relations for Kentucky Equality Federation, also commented: "Kentucky Equality Federation urges restraint and grace by all parties. This is a battle won for the larger movement of equality, but we view both the City of Hazard and the victims as winners. The city wins by recognizing this need for development and swiftly adopting a proactive plan of remediation and prevention. The victims win by having their deserved apology and recognition that their experience has brought these issues to light. With this resolution, we recognize that we are not enemies moving forward.

We must recognize that this is a win for all parties, yet it is only a portion of the greater struggle for equality. While this is a moment to recognize the contributions of all parties, this is not a time for casting aside self-discipline in the form of a 'victory dance.' It would be counterproductive to attempt to monopolize The Pavilion for an LGBTI event in the wake of the resolution of this recent situation. Kentucky Equality Federation's role as a public advocate is to build bridges or speak for victims of hate crimes, school or workplace bullying.

Hazard has proven that it is devoted to equality, and the cause would be much better served by welcoming them rather than by opening the door to new incidents. We should celebrate the maturity and swiftness with which Kentucky Equality Federation and the City of Hazard resolved this issue with final negotiations ending today. Hazard's resolution is an example of how local governments should listen to their communities and protect the interests of all persons, resolving these issues correctly and promptly."

Kentucky Equality Federation Mental Health Outreach Director Kelly Gill, Children of LGBTI Parents Outreach Director Julia Oiler Spiegel, Southern Kentucky Regional Director Anderson Ruth, and Assistant Southern Kentucky Regional Directors Will Taylor and Shannon Shannon L. McKinney also called for restraint in order to continue to move forward in a positive manner noting that any 'pool dances' or other such action against the City would be counter-productive.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Statement on the actions of the City of Hazard

Hazard, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation extends its thanks to Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman. "Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman is a women of integrity and class," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "She has stated that all people are welcome at The Pavilion and has been receptive, positive, and helpful from the very beginning."

The City of Hazard has suspended the employee who threw the two gay men out of The Pavilion for five (5) days without pay and ordered him to undergo ‘sensitivity training’. The city has also ordered a sign be posted stating all official rules and prohibiting excessive public displays of affection, be it same-sex or opposite-sex couples. The city also promises that all rules with be enforced in a uniform fashion and apologized for the conduct of the facility manager to the entire staff of CNN.

Kentucky Equality Federation requests that the city make good on its promises, and continues to demand that Mr. Kim Haynes be reassigned to another part of city government.

Only one woman and her family showed-up in opposition and their arguments were based on religion. In total, over 64 people drove by or showed-up to support the two gay men thrown out of the pool and more than 1000 people have signed an online petition demanding action by the city. (Online Petition by

"The Great Seal of the Commonwealth of Kentucky says 'United We Stand, Divided We Fall,' Kentucky’s founding fathers knew this to be true," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "The first time we allow anyone or anything, be it a government, group, or individual to deny even one person their inalienable human rights, we deny them their freedoms and strip them of their identity, humanity, and person-hood; when you inject religion into the factor, it is an attack on the very soul of Kentucky’s Constitution.

We thank the City of Hazard for taking these initial steps to show their good will, proof that some Southern Kentucky community’s embrace diversity.  We would never ask that Mr. Haynes be terminated because we must show compassion and love even if others do not."

Joshua Koch, a Kentucky Equality Federation political adviser to Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer, and Director of Public Relations/Media, also commented. "While we applaud the positive change in this decision from the City of Hazard, we recognize that this incident proves that we still have much work to do in achieving equality for all citizens. This is a sobering moment because we realize that this incident could have been avoided, but it has taught us all something about being good neighbors to the disabled and those different from ourselves. I encourage thoughtful reflection by all parties on the lessons learned, rather than a celebration of one faction or another winning. It is my opinion that the planned LGBTI pool party at the facility in question is an inappropriate gesture at a moment when reflection and grace would be more appropriate."

Kentucky Equality Federation congratulates the victims of this incident on bringing this to light, not accepting this mistreatment, and, ultimately, winning their appeal for equal treatment in the public forum. They are an example to us all.

The Pavilion Community Protest/Rally

Hazard, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation would like to clarify community questions and issues related to the community protest in Hazard, KY.

"Hazard Mayor Nan Gorman is a women if integrity and class," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "She has stated that all people are welcome at The Pavilion and has been receptive, positive, and helpful from the very beginning."

Palmer continued: "We have invited Mayor Nan Gorman and City Manager Carlos Combs to speak at Saturday’s event, as well as Hazard's elected delegation to the Commonwealth's Capitol in Frankfort: Representative Fitz Steele, and Senator Brandon Smith."

Kentucky Equality Federation Assistant Southern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor added: "Many religious leaders both in and around Hazard, KY has asked to join us for the peaceful rally at The Pavilion at 2:00 PM.

People are encouraged to make their own signs, but we ask that they keep in mind that this is a peaceful assembly, a right granted to us in Section I of the Kentucky Constitution.”

"Kentucky Equality Federation demands that the person who forced the two gay men to leave The Pavilion issue a formal apology and be reassigned to another area of Hazard's government," stated Kentucky Equality Federation Chairman Richard T. Jones. "The Board of Directors supports decisions made by management, including President Jordan Palmer, Children of LGBTI Parents Outreach Director Julia Oiler Spiegel, Mental Health Outreach Director Kelly Gill, Southern Kentucky Regional Director Anderson Ruth, Assistant Southern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor, and Assistant Southern Kentucky Regional Director Shannon L. McKinney.

Kentucky Equality Federation Jordan Palmer also has the benefit of having Mr. Josh Koch as a Special Political Consultant who is also our Public Relations and Media Director, and other elected officials who serve as political consultants not listed on our website. Threats against President Palmer are being taking seriously, but this is not the first time he has received death threats in the name of equality.”

Mending Hearts is a wonderful organization, and Kentucky Equality Federation thanks them for reaching out to us to protect the civil liberties of the two men in question. For additional information, please review the original press release. (more)

Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer added that many people will be speaking at the peaceful protest/community rally. "Our intention is to show solidarity against any type of discrimination. Though the City of Hazard prohibits discrimination according to City Attorney Paul R. Collins, this further highlights the fact that the Commonwealth needs a statewide equality law to protect people not only in selected cities but across the entire Commonwealth which is why we continue to focus our efforts at the Kentucky Capitol."

MEDIA UPDATE:  Kentucky Equality Federation, the City of Hazard, and Mending Hearts close the case on the incident involving two gay men forced to leave The Pavilion.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Media Update - Hazard Pavilion and Berea City Ordinance Hearing

Hazard, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation will not back down from its position that the person involved in the incident at The Pavilion should be reassigned to another area of government or terminated since an official apology from the person involved is not forthcoming. Kentucky Equality Federation Chairman Richard T. Jones, and President Jordan Palmer stand behind the decisions made by our regional directors, assistant regional directors and our outreach directors.

Video footage from The Pavilion to show the behavior in question has been requested; the two men involved did not hug and kiss each other in public, but even if they did the same standard must be applied to all citizens, including married couples. Ollie Adams, co-owner of Mending Hearts, said a staff member told her that the Pavilion employee told the group to leave "after one of the men sat on the other's knee and put his arm around him while sitting outside the pool."

If all public displays of affection are prohibited, it must be applied in a uniform manner. We stand behind the two men in question as well as Mending Hearts, Inc.

Will Taylor, Kentucky Equality Federation's Assistant Regional Director for Southern Kentucky continues to plan a protest for this weekend.  When an exact date is know, it will be released to the media.  

However, Kentucky Equality Federation continues to work with the City Manager and City Attorney to reach a satisfactory solution.

Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer spoke to City Manager Carlos Combs as late as 4:00 PM today with the city hoping to avoid a protest.

--> See Previous Press Release

# # # # # #

Berea, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation is not opposed to the hearing in Berea tonight to pass a non-discrimination ordinance if it a citizen driven movement. Kentucky Equality Federation however believes our fight must continue to be waged in the Kentucky Legislature and not municipality by municipality with local ordinances which each city must find the money to assign investigators and enforce.

We continue on the path of an equality law that will protect everyone in the Commonwealth from discrimination in employment, housing, credit, and accommodations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

Kentucky has 120 subdivisions (counties), in some cases with multiple cities located within each county, especially in Northern Kentucky, Southern Central Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Eastern Kentucky, and Southern Kentucky itself. In addition, legislation has been filed multiple times to rescind the authority of cities to pass these local ordinances.

We remain committed to long-term objectives, and we will not sacrifice them for illusory short-term victories. A statewide equality law would give jurisdiction to the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, a state agency.

In addition, no city ordinance could have prevented the events in Hazard.

Kentucky Equality Federation continues to fight to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act of 1966 as a protected class along with religion, smoking, disability, race, sex, ancestry, veteran status, and disability. We need an equality law the compass the entire Commonwealth!

# # # # # #

The Public Relations and Media Director can be reached at (877) KEF-5775 - Ext. 1.  

MEDIA UPDATE:  Kentucky Equality Federation, the City of Hazard, and Mending Hearts close the case on the incident involving two gay men forced to leave The Pavilion.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Two gay men forced to leave a government recreational facility in Hazard, KY

Hazard, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation today condemned The Pavilion for ejecting two gay males from their facility. A maintenance technician told the couple and the group present "we own this place and can tell you to leave if we want to."

Kentucky Equality Federation was contacted by Mending Hearts, Inc. an organization that receives Medicaid funding from the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

"This is completely outrageous, The Pavilion is owned by the City of Hazard and paid for by our tax dollars," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. "Rest assured Kentucky Equality Federation will not tolerate discrimination in any form and our Southern Kentucky volunteer management, as well as our Discrimination, Hate Crimes and School Bullying Committee have planned a peaceful response."

"The Pavilion staff immediately entered the pool area and asked my clients and their staff to leave the Pavilion," stated Shirlyn Perkins, Executive Director of Mending Hearts, Inc. "My staff asked The Pavilion staff why they were being asked to leave, and they were informed that 'gay people' weren't allowed to swim there. My staff told this man that what he was trying to do was discrimination. The man stated that what he was doing was in the Bible and he could do it. My staff continued to argue with this man, but was ultimately forced to leave. My clients, whom already feel ridiculed and different, left the city owned facility crying and embarrassed for trying to participate in 'normal' activities that everyday 'normal' people do."

Kentucky Equality Federation contacted City Manager Carlos Combs, Mayor Nan Gorman and the Office of the Governor.

"The two gay males with developmental and intellectual disabilities were discriminated against by the staff of The Pavilion based on their sexual orientation,” added Kentucky Equality Federation Children of LGBTI Parents Outreach Director Julia Oiler Spiegel. "Not only was this an irreprehensible act by the staff, it was humiliating to these young men and their direct support staff. Both men are clients of Mending Hearts, Inc. which provides support for individuals with developmental and intellectual disabilities. Mending Hearts is diligent in providing ongoing support for their clients regarding appropriate behavior within the community and neither of these young men was exhibiting inappropriate public behavior as witnessed by their direct support staff.

Spiegel continued: As a gay parent of a child with a developmental challenge, I am outraged by this complete act of ignorance directed at these young men and their staff. As a public community service, the The Pavilion has a responsibility to provide equal treatment to all members of their facility and to properly educate their staff accordingly. A Biblical comment is totally inappropriate. All citizens of the Commonwealth of Kentucky should be treated with equality and respect, based not only on their intellectual abilities but their sexual orientation as well. This was a humiliating experience for both of these young men and will not be tolerated. I demand a public apology, not only these young men, but to the clients and staff of Mending Hearts, Inc. as well as the LGBTI community of Perry County."

Kentucky Equality Federation's Assistant Regional Director for Southern Kentucky, Will Taylor is planning a protest of City Hall and The Pavilion. "The only way to stop the upcoming protest is an official apology for the way these people have been treated, and immediate corrective action." stated Taylor.

Palmer added: "This would be no if Mr. Haynes, The Pavilion staff member involved was forced to leave a community facility (and therefore owned by the citizens) because he did not share Jewish, Muslim, or Buddhist beliefs; region has no place in government.

So far the Mayor's Office has stated all people are welcome at The Pavilion, but I defer to the judgment of our Southern Kentucky management and statewide outreach directors who demand an official apology to avoid a protest outside City Hall and The Pavilion.

In addition, should an apology and corrective action not be forthcoming, we call on Governor Beshear to rescind funding to The Pavilion and the City of Hazard in the spirit of his executive order prohibiting discrimination of LGBTI people in Kentucky government."

MEDIA UPDATE:  Kentucky Equality Federation, the City of Hazard, and Mending Hearts close the case on the incident involving two gay men forced to leave The Pavilion.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Teaching sexual orientation in Kentucky schools; Kentucky Department of Education Model Curriculum Framework

Lexington, KY -- The Family Foundation of Kentucky yesterday unleashed an absurd attack on the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) for mentioning "sexual orientation" a single time in the KDE's draft Model Curriculum Framework. In addition, it appears that the Family Foundation of Kentucky is opposed to mentioning critical thinking. The Kentucky Equality Foundation, by contrast, strongly encourages consideration of sexual orientation and critical thinking.

This is a sad attempt by the Family Foundation of Kentucky to gain legitimacy by jumping into the education-policy brawl between think tanks and candidates.

"Teaching children that people have different sexual orientations is a step in the right direction and would lead to less school bullying, suicides, in addition to drug/alcohol abuse," said Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer.  "These are not ‘special interests’ as classified in the press release issued by the Family Foundation of Kentucky, rather Kentucky schools will prepare our children for a Commonwealth and world full of diversity.  However, in the past the Kentucky Senate has held hearings on such things without public notice and behind closed doors, allowing only the Family Foundation of Kentucky to speak, lead by Senate President David Williams who classified any attempt to elevate school bullying laws, adoption, or teaching sexual orientation in schools as teaching 'aberrant behavior'." (source WKYT-TV)   

Kentucky Equality Federation Public Relations and Media Director Josh Koch also commented. "What makes this truly despicable is that the Family Foundation has chosen to make this bid for legitimacy by injecting nonsense and needless venom into a serious discussion," Koch said. "This is a tragic attempt to buy relevance at the expense of decency and common sense.

I grew up among fundamentalists who reverenced groups like the Family Foundation. These allegedly 'pro-family' groups routinely use demagoguery and subtle fear tactics about social issues to manipulate their donors and supporters into supporting an establishment which routinely sells out those donors and supporters on more important issues. Sadly, these propaganda pushes also have negative public fallout, from discrimination to hate crimes. Tactics like these are why I left the Republican party and the 'social conservative' roots with which I was raised. I believe people should treat each other as neighbors, not as enemies, and I believe in critical thought."

"The Commonwealth is filled with a variety of families, extended families in addition to being born straight or lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, or intersex," stated Kentucky Equality Federation Mental Health Outreach Director Kelly Gill.

Gill continued: "Children learn from their environments, from birth they learn from our actions. We instill values in them often without notice. However, we also instill hate and prejudice. If we start teaching our children at a young age that something as simple as sexuality is not a choice, but how people are born we would be taking a large leap toward a new level of acceptance. People tend to believe that being homosexual is a choice, it is not. No one chooses to be outcast by family, ridiculed in school, and forced to hide who they are. When we ignore the situation is does not go away it turns to bullying and growing negativity. Some of the very children sitting in a classroom hearing a teacher speak about homosexuality in a neutral way may be hearing what they need to hear in order to be more comfortable with who they are, likewise it may be a child who could have turned into a bully had they not been taught about sexuality. We are asking you to support your children and who they are without turning this into a self serving political agenda."

Kentucky Equality Federation Assistant Southern Kentucky Regional Director William Taylor stated: "By teaching sexual orientation we are prepping the children for life outside of school, in the real world and not the small bubble the Family Foundation of Kentucky apparently lives in, this has nothing to do with 'political correctness' as they indicated, it is about teaching our children about the different cultures, including different sexual orientation they will encounter. This is political propaganda which the Family Foundation of Kentucky is famous for, such as their 2009 seminars to 'save marriage,' save it from what? We believe Kentuckians are tired of so-called "family foundations," which serve so other purpose that to spread hate and indifference.  The influence of the Family Foundation of Kentucky has diminished considerably in the past couple of years."

Monday, June 6, 2011

Second Kentucky church stops signing marriage licenses

Lexington, KY -- Kentucky Equality Federation applauds Rev. Dawn Cooley and the First Unitarian Church located on South 4th Street in Louisville for being the second Kentucky Church to take a stand for equality.

Douglass Boulevard Christian Church was the first to take the initiative.

Both churches have stated they will continue to perform religious marriage ceremonies for straight and gay couples but would no longer perform the civil function of signing marriage licenses on behalf of the Commonwealth.

In addition, Jim Daly, the president of the massive religious-right organization Focus on the Family, conceded that his group had basically lost the argument on gay marriage in an interview with a Christian magazine.

This is welcomed news for marriage equality, and applauded by Kentucky Equality Federation and Marriage Equality Kentucky

Marriage Equality Kentucky
is a group funded by Kentucky Equality Federation since 2008 for which Halyn Roth had served as Managing Director.

"Both churches deserve medals for taking such a stand for equality and justice and they will be remembered by history in our struggle for inalienable human rights," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, and intersex people (LGBTI) contribute considerably to the Commonwealth's economy yet we are denied equality in every sense of the word; we are denied protection from bullying, discrimination in housing, employment, credit, and accommodations in addition to more than 100 rights the Commonwealth denies us related to marriage."

Because the Commonwealth does not recognize same-sex marriages, these are some of the human rights LGBTI people are denied that many take for granted:
  • Accidental death benefit for the surviving spouse of a government employee;
  • Appointment as guardian of a minor;
  • Beneficial owner status of corporate securities;
  • Bill of Rights benefits for victims and witnesses;
  • Consent to post-mortem examination;
  • Control, division, acquisition, and disposition of community property;
  • Criminal injuries compensation;
  • Death benefit for surviving spouse for government employee;
  • Disclosure of vital statistics records;
  • Eligibility for housing opportunity allowance program of the Housing, Finance and Development Corporation;
  • Exemption from claims of Department of Human Services for social services payments, financial assistance, or burial payments;
  • Exemption from conveyance tax;
  • Family violence prevention and services;
  • Funeral leave for government employees;
  • Income tax deductions, credits, rates exemption, and estimates;
  • Insurance licenses, coverage, eligibility, and benefits;
  • Legal status with partner’s children;
  • Making partner medical decisions;
  • Payment of wages to a relative of deceased employee;
  • Payment of worker's compensation benefits after death;
  • Permission to make arrangements for burial or cremation;
  • Public assistance from the Cabinet for Health and Family Services;
  • Right to change names;
  • Right to inherit property;
  • Rights and proceedings for involuntary hospitalization and treatment;
  • Spousal privilege and confidential marriage communications;
  • Tax relief for natural disaster losses;

Palmer continued: "Additionally, we call on all churches in the Commonwealth to follow the lead of the First Unitarian Church, and the Douglass Boulevard Christian Church.  Kentucky Equality Federation has a volunteer who has attended the First Unitarian Church for over 4 years."

We will repeal the Commonwealth's 2004 Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage, domestic partnerships, and civil unions. It is only a question of when; just as gender-neural marriage is illegal in Kentucky, so was gender-neutral voting. As with voting, marriage equality will be made gender neutral.

You do not realize what it is to be treated as a second class citizen until the government treats you like one; the danger in allowing the inalienable human rights of even one person to be violated is that it opens the door to additional government oppression, when the majority denies rights to minorities simply because they are the majority.

We have only a handful of Representatives in the Kentucky House of Representatives who bravely support marriage equality. This shows that our concept of marriage must mature. Marriage is a contract between the State and two loving people, nothing more, nothing less."