Wednesday, January 16, 2013

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

Jordan Palmer, President
Brandon Combs, Chairman of the Board
Jillian Hall, Esq., Vice President of Legal
Mike Mansfield, Frankfort Council Organizer with

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 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."

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