Oh, Kellyanne, we all know what you were really talking about when you coined the now infamous #BowlingGreenMassacre. You and I know the real victim is Fairness. Month after month for nearly five years, our state’s third—largest city has ignored calls from local supporters to pass an LGBTQ Fairness Ordinance. In fact, the mayor and city commission’s indignation and arrogance against Bowling Green Fairness supporters reached a fever pitch last month when it voted to silence the voices of its own residents by moving public comments to an indeterminable time at the end of each city commission meeting rather than the beginning, which was the custom.
It’s been interesting to watch the Bowling Green Fairness movement grow, even as Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and the commissioners have moved to thwart it at every turn. It undeniably speaks to the power of commitment and perseverance, even in the face of Sisyphean odds. Now, after years of mute obstinacy, city leaders have been forced to confront the issue of LGBTQ Fairness as newly elected Commissioner Brian “Slim” Nash pushes the conversation forward. When he first introduced the Bowling Green Fairness Ordinance in February, more Bowling Green residents filled City Hall than had ever shown up for any issue in recent memory.
Even as the national landscape follows a frightening trajectory, there is great progress and hope in the Bluegrass.
Along with Bowling Green, there is strong movement in Georgetown, where supporters mounted their first Georgetown Pride Festival last summer and in February brought a local Fairness Ordinance to the city council. In Berea, where a lesbian family was recently the victim of an anti-LGBTQ hate crime of vandalism, supporters rallied to the Berea Human Rights Commission and prompted the city council to take a stand against hate crimes in April. In Shelbyville, the newly reformed Shelby County Human Rights Commission issued a historic letter in support of a Fairness Ordinance to the city council for the first time in April.
And in Frankfort, we successfully fought off a flurry of anti-LGBTQ measures that would have made Kentucky the next North Carolina.
It’s because you have stood up and helped make your voices heard following the election. We’ve seen more volunteers in our office than ever before since last November, and we feel the momentum just continues to build. More Kentuckians joined us in the capitol than ever before to lobby and rally for their rights — and they were heard.
And we can continue to make an argument — emotionally and economically — that LGBTQ inclusion is beneficial to the state. At the very least, discrimination and exclusion is costly, as Indiana and North Carolina both proved. We’re at more than 200 Kentucky employers and growing in support of the Kentucky Competitive Workforce Coalition to pass LGBTQ-inclusive statewide legislation. If your employer isn’t signed on yet, get them there!
For an interesting and dramatic twist to it all, the recent Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in Hively v. Ivy Tech sets a potential precedent for the inclusion of LGBTQ employment discrimination protections in existing Title VII sex discrimination protections. It’s the highest federal court to issue such a ruling. That case will likely head to the Supreme Court; from there, it’s anyone’s guess, especially given their decision to remand transgender high school student Gavin Grimm’s case to the lower court in the last couple of months.
I suppose the message is that our rights are in constant flux in this new America. But when weren’t they? We’ve been battling the uncertainty of both political parties on LGBTQ rights for decades. It simply feels more precarious than ever. •
Hartman is director of the Fairness Campaign, which advocates for LGBTQ rights, and a columnist for Modern Louisville.