Fairness Ordinance Voted Down in First Reading at Bowling Green City Commission

Apr 17, 2019

Supporters of a Fairness Ordinance displayed a sign outside City Hall before the Bowling Green City Commission's April 16 meeting.
Credit Colin Jackson

The first reading of an ordinance that would provide greater protections for LGBTQ individuals failed to pass the Bowling Green City Commission at its meeting Tuesday night.  

The commission heard 24 public comments in favor of what's known as a "Fairness Ordinance", and nine comments against the proposal. 

The ordinance failed to pass on a vote of 3-2, with Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and Commissioners Joe Denning and Sue Parrigin voting against the proposal. Commissioners Slim Nash and Dana Beasley-Brown voted in favor of the proposal.


The ordinance would protect LGBTQ individuals from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations. Bowling Green is the largest city in Kentucky without such legal protections. 

Former Western Kentucky University Vice President Howard Bailey was one of the community members who came to Tuesday's meeting in support of the ordinance. He said arguments against the rights of LGBTQ individuals remind him of the arguments made against ending 1960s Jim Crow-era segregation in southern states.

"Bigotry has no gender, and those are the same kinds of ideas and defense mechanisms that African-Americans fought with the Christians who claimed to be Christians, and but kept us in slavery for almost 400 years," Bailey said. 

Those at the Tuesday's meeting who spoke against the measure most often referenced protecting religious freedom, concerns over who is allowed into which public bathrooms, and what they perceived as a lack of evidence that discrimination is taking place. 

Commissioner Sue Parrigin, one of the "no" votes, said she believes most Bowling Green residents are opposed to enacting a Fairness Ordinance.

"I'm pretty steadfast in the fact that yes, everybody needs to be treated fairly. Yes, absolutely. Although, I think that if we want to pass laws that says this has to happen in the workplace or in a legal contract for an apartment or a house or whatever you want to rent, that that needs to happen at the state level," Parrigin said. 

The proposal now faces a final vote during its second reading at a May 7 meeting.