Green Eggs and Hate

Sep 2, 2015 at 2:17 pm
Green Eggs and Hate

Green eggs and hate

The Kentucky Farm Bureau actively advocates for policies that discriminate against gays, teachers and undermine women’s health privacy. This is like the National Rifle Association campaigning against environmental regulations. The two are, or at least should be, unrelated.

Last Tuesday, Chris Hartman had no intention of being arrested when he attended the Kentucky Farm Bureau (KFB) Ham Breakfast & Auction. In fact, Hartman had never been arrested. Now, he faces trial for disorderly conduct in the second degree next month.

To be fair, Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, planned and organized a protest at the event. However, that protest, from all accounts, was as civil, non-disruptive and non-threatening as a protest can be. It included T-shirts bearing the slogan “No hate in our state” and standing silently at the table purchased by the Fairness Campaign.

So why did the KFB and the State Police target and arrest Hartman and two other protestors? For five years the Fairness Campaign has been protesting the Ham Breakfast & Auction, an event that draws over 1,500 people, including the most prominent government officials and politicians from Kentucky — Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Governor Steve Beshear, Mayor Greg Fischer, Congressman John Yarmuth, as well as both candidates for governor, Attorney General Jack Conway and Matt Bevin, among others.

The breakfast is also notable for the outlandish winning bids for the Kentucky State Fair’s Grand Champion Ham. This year’s winning bid — $400,000, over $28,000 per pound. Last year, the auction fetched $2 million, with two bidders agreeing to partner at $1 million each. (All of the money goes to charity.)

However, the protest was not a publicity stunt by the Fairness Campaign, and its partnering protestors from the ACLU of Kentucky and the Jefferson County Teacher’s Association. Their efforts were not directed at the attending politicians or the media. Their protests were directed solely to the KFB for their discriminatory policies.

According to the ACLU’s website, “every state and federal legislator is mailed a ‘Kentucky Farm Bureau Policies’ manual.” They also point out that the manual is not sent to customers, who may be unwittingly supporting the KFB’s positions on social issues. Among the list of policies that are both discriminatory and irrelevant to issues facing the farming industry are the following:

“We are opposed to any state-supported agency providing benefits to ‘domestic’ partners.”

“The institution of marriage should only be recognized as the legal union of a man and a woman.”

“Alternative lifestyles should not be taught in public schools.”

“We strongly oppose teacher strikes. We oppose legislation that mandates collective bargaining for public school employees.”

“We strongly believe in the value of all individuals both born and unborn.”

It is for these tangible reasons, among other hateful, discriminatory attitudes expressed through their policies manual, that Fairness has been protesting the event.

The Supreme Court has taken care of the “institution of marriage” issue. Should the KFB maintain their stated “policy” in opposition to the law of the land, not only would they become the protestor, but they would find themselves in the company of stubborn, senseless, primitive demogogues like those who still stand in the way of amending Alabama’s state constitution, which still reads, “Separate schools shall be provided for white and colored children, and no child of either race shall be permitted to attend a school of the other race.”

Hartman, whom I have known for many years, told me that the sole purpose of the protest was to get the KFB to consider removing their discriminatory policies. He was not out to be arrested or cause a scene for the media. Although he did acknowledge that after five years of protesting, it took getting arrested to steal any attention away from the astronomical, even comical, winning ham bid, and for people to take note of the KFB’s hateful policies.

It’s time for the “Voice of Kentucky Agriculture” to listen. The KFB has one year to change their policies before the next breakfast. It is an event that can do a lot of good for local and state charities, but it should not come at the expense of tolerance and acceptance of others. Those politicians who attend should not continue to attend and support the Farm Bureau. As well, those bidding on the ham should consider other avenues to direct their charitable contributions. The good they do should not be tarnished by an unfortunate affiliation with a hateful organization.