Bowling Green City Commission Votes Down 'Fairness Ordinance' Again

May 8, 2019

A display of 'Fairness Campaign' t-shirts laid on the Bowling Green City Hall lawn ahead of a meeting.
Credit Colin Jackson

The final reading of an LGBTQ protection measure known as a Fairness Ordinance at Tuesday's Bowling Green City Commission meeting failed on a 3-2 vote.

It marked the latest rejection in a statewide effort to have local governments ban discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The Bowling Green City Commission also rejected the Fairness Ordinance during its first reading at a meeting in April. 

Commissioner Brian "Slim" Nash played a nasty voicemail he received for supporting the measure prior to opening the floor for open comment.

Alexander Miller was one of the 87 citizens who spent more than three hours weighing in on the proposal at the meeting. He said while he personally recieves good treatment in Bowling Green because his previous time working as a Western Kentucky University mascot, he has many friends who have faced discrimination.

"I'm speaking for my rights to still continue to live here and to still call this place home and so I felt the need to come up here and to put a name to the face so that we're not just talking about transgender people as this foreign topic. There's one standing right here," Miller, who identifies as a transgendered man, said.

He was among many who called for those on the commission who opposed the ordinance to explain their position.

Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson, who joined Commissioners Joe Denning and Sue Parrigin in voting against the ordinance, said he explained his position as a private citizen when the topic first came up in the late 1990s.

"When people ask for what your opinion is with regard to this issue, I've found it's not really your opinion they're looking for. They're not looking for information, they're looking for ammunition so that they can challenge your opinion. My opinion hasn't changed since 1999," Wilkerson said.

Tuesday's meeting saw many more speakers on both sides of the issue participate in public comment than the first reading at a meeting in mid-April. The group included religious leaders, both in support and against of the ordinance, drag performers and local business owners.

Proponents discussed business benefits, the need for anti-discrimination protections, and counterpoints to the main arguments against the proposal. Opponents often referenced religious beliefs, fears of lawsuits, and also said they didn't believe the ordinance was necessary.

Tuesday's vote is another setback in a years-long effort to have Bowling Green approve the policy. It is also the first time the proposal made it to the vote stage of the process.

After the meeting, Commissioners Dana Beasley-Brown and Nash joined State Representative Patti Minter in addressing a crowd of around 50 supporters from the steps of City Hall. They seemed resigned to the idea of changing their fellow commissioners' minds.

Nash called for the addition of one more pro-ordinance member to join himself and Beasley-Brown on the board. Beasley-Brown won her seat in this past November's election.