Monday, April 14, 2014

Kentucky Equality Federation raises issue with EKU's proposed policy change for "Registered Student Organizations"

Brandon Combs, Chairman of the Board for the Kentucky Equality Federation, reached out to Dr. Michael T. Benson, President, and Dr. Janna P. Vice, Provost, of Eastern Kentucky University regarding a proposed policy change for Registered Student Organizations (RSO). (download)

The proposed policy includes verbiage that would open the door for student organizations to willfully discriminate against any student for any reason they see fit without regard for the law or University policy.

“I am hopeful that by providing my alma mater some very direct policy advice, we will be able to prevent any future discrimination complaints associated with the campus’ Registered Student Organizations," stated Brandon Combs, Chairman. "Student organizations have the right to operate within their niche of the campus community, but this must be done with respect to the law, University policy, and general common decency."

Chairman Combs extended an open door for meeting with the University Administration to discuss the proposed policy change, however, has not yet been reached out to by University staff. The Kentucky Equality Federation is standing by ready to assist the University with any policy-making questions, or any students who fall victim to discrimination due to poor policy making.

Below of a copy of the letter or one can be obtained in PDF format here.

This letter is being sent regarding the proposed Registered Student Organization (RSO) policy change that is currently available for debate on the 30 Day Comment Forum, hosted by Director Parks’ department. The proposed policy, as presented is not sufficient, as its wording opens the door for discrimination of all kinds. The phrase "However, the University respects the rights of the VSO/NSO to determine its own membership" has sufficient ambiguity to cause alarm to multiple populations on Eastern Kentucky University’s campus. As written, this would allow an organization to discriminate against any person for any reason, which may include, but is not limited to: age, race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, veteran status, or genetic information. Any discrimination complaint filed with these classifications would violate Title 7, Title 9, and/or EKU Policy and Regulation 1.4.1P – Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action Statement (Non-Discrimination Policy).
It is the suggestion of my Office that you amend the aforementioned statement to include the following: “The University respects the rights of the VSO/NSO to determine its own membership, however the selection process for membership shall not violate state or federal law, any EKU policies, and should be available for immediate review at the request of the Office of the Provost for Academic Affairs.” Failing to protect the student body from discrimination would potentially make the University liable, thusly causing a loss in Title 7 and Title 9 funding (see. Bob Jones University v. United States; Jason Johnson v. University of the Cumberlands).
Furthermore, as the largest, all-volunteer LGBTI advocacy group in the Commonwealth of Kentucky, we will assist any and all persons who file discrimination complaints rooted in this inefficient policy-making, up to and including legal action, assisting the complainant with securing an attorney, and providing any additional resources to the complainant available at our disposal.
Officials at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU) immediately acknowledged receipt of the letter.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Ohio same-sex marriage ruling mirrors Kentucky's; taxpayer money being wasted

The ruling in Ohio is very similar to that in Kentucky. As with the Commonwealth, Ohio votes had a Constitutional Amendment defining marriage as a union between one man and one woman. U.S. District Judge Timothy Black has announced he will issue a ruling similar to that of U.S. District Judge John Heyburn, allowing marriages performed in other states to be recognized within the state of Ohio. It is expected that the ruling will be released on April 14th, at which time the Governor is expected to appeal the decision.

"Appealing the decisions of these U.S. District Judges flies in the face of civil rights through an exercise of states' rights," stated Kentucky Equality Federation’s Chairman of the Board, Brandon Combs. "In the commonwealth of Kentucky, it has been estimated upwards of $1 million in taxpayer funds will be used to appeal the decision of U.S. District Judge Heyburn. The use of these funds in such a manner demonstrates a lack of forethought and understanding of the Commonwealth’s needs. This is a partial win for Ohio, and supports the position that Judge Heyburn almost verbatim. We must take these incremental wins as steps in the right direction; Equality for all people, everywhere."

"In Kentucky, the gay marriage ban violates our own Kentucky Bill of Rights. The state-sponsored subjugation of citizens’ rights to bans written by religious special interests is forcing LGBTI couples to seek relief in federal courts. As states continue to deny justice to their own citizens, even when ordered to do so by federal courts, they are leading their states into wasteful legal battles to avoid exercising their own responsibility. This 'Axis of Inequality' in America's heartland is doing damage to state constitutions, state sovereignty, and the rights of sovereign citizens,” said Kentucky Equality Federation President Joshua Koch.

In the guise of defending a phony democratic process, the cowardly politicians of these three states are protecting laws which violate their own constitutions. Rather than doing the right thing, our own governor, Governor Beshear, is using tax dollars to fight for the right to keep LGBTI taxpaying families locked away as second-class citizens. This pandering to fundamentalist extremists puts future generations at a disadvantage in enforcing their sovereign status against federal encroachment."

Monday, March 17, 2014

Kentucky Equality Federation concerned with the voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools

House Republicans want to pass the voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints in public schools," stated Kentucky Equality Federation Southeastern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor. "The proposed legislation, House Bill 426 could create an 'open season' on gay and lesbian students (LGBTI) or any non-Christian student."

Kentucky Equality Federation Eastern Kentucky Regional Director Matt Berry stated: "Religious expression is any form of expression that is not a disturbance to the day-to-day function of the school or instruction. According to the Kentucky Department of Education, no school employee may endorse, promote, or discriminate against a religion when acting in their official capacity."

"House Bill 426 could blur or repeal existing school bullying laws in the name of religious freedom," concluded Southeastern Kentucky Regional Director Will Taylor and Eastern Kentucky Regional Director Matt Berry.

Kentucky Equality Federation respects the right of every person to their personal religious beliefs so long as those beliefs do not infringe on the civil rights or religious beliefs of others.

House Bill 426:

Amend KRS 158.183 to permit students to voluntarily express religious viewpoints in school assignments free from discrimination and to organize prayer groups, religious clubs, or other religious gatherings before, during, and after school to the same extent that students are permitted to organize other noncurricular student activities and groups; create a new section of KRS Chapter 158 to require each board of education to adopt and implement a policy regarding voluntary student expression of religious viewpoints and to establish a limited public forum for student speakers at all school events at which a student is to publicly speak, including graduation; designate procedure for selection of student speakers; require subject of speech to be relevant to event; require district disclaimer indicating nonendorsement of the content of voluntary expressions by students. 

 Kentucky Equality Federation will continue to monitor the legislation.

Friday, February 14, 2014

#KY #KYGA14: Special Statement: Bourke v. Beshear and equality across the commonwealth

Richmond, KY - Kentucky Equality Federation welcomes the decision by Judge Heyburn. We believe strongly in equal rights and state sovereignty, and that both are not mutually exclusive.

"However, when a group of religious radicals defaced the Kentucky Constitution in 2004, making a document which guarantees freedom of conscience, life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, their decision had broader ramifications than they expected. It is not acceptable to vandalize the Kentucky Constitution and violate the Commonwealth's own Bill of Rights, and then seek shelter behind the Federal Constitution's Tenth Amendment," stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer.

Kentucky Constitution, Section 2: "Absolute and arbitrary power over the lives, liberty and property of freemen exists nowhere in a republic, not even in the largest majority."
Kentucky Constitution, Section 26: "To guard against transgression of the high powers which we have delegated, We Declare that every thing in this Bill of Rights is excepted out of the general powers of government, and shall forever remain inviolate; and all laws contrary thereto, or contrary to this Constitution, shall be void."
Palmer continued:  "By these sections of the Kentucky Constitution's Bill of Rights, such a ban is unconstitutional. There is no special exception made for popularity of a measure, or whether absolute and arbitrary powers are granted by a later amendment. We stand with Kentucky and its own Constitution. While we wish the legislature had protected the constitutional rights of its own citizens without requiring a federal court's intervention, their inaction made this case inevitable. Free people will seek legal recourse from their oppressors, and they are to be commended when they do.

As president, I issue a warning to Kentuckians that this decision, while important, has a very narrow application. We expect that compliance with the decision will lag or be outright refused in some jurisdictions. Further, it still does not rectify, as it could not, the inability of LGBTI couples to marry within Kentucky, nor did it add a statewide LGBTI Civil Rights protection law."

Vice President K. Joshua Koch stated: "These issues must be addressed in the immediate future, or Kentucky will continue to be wracked by lawsuits. The legislators of Kentucky would do well to recognize that their inaction thus far has been rejected by concerned citizens, and further inaction will not be tolerated. The citizens of Kentucky are seeking equality by any means necessary. If our lawmakers in the Kentucky House and Senate are not up to the task of removing barriers of discrimination for certain citizens and taxpayers, those vulnerable members of society have a right to seek seek Judicial recourse or vote them out of office."

NOTICE: Some comments made by Vice President K. Joshua Koch have been moved by the President's Legal Department to our official blog. To read those comments, please click here.