Henderson Considering Take Two on Fairness Law

May 6, 2019

Credit WFPL

A western Kentucky town may repeat history by passing a Fairness Ordinance. 

A public meeting will be held in Henderson on Monday evening to gauge interest in a law that would give civil rights protections to the LGBTQ population. 

Former Mayor Joan Hoffman helped pass a fairness law in 1999 that was repealed 18 months later because of changes on the city commission.

She says Henderson has experienced a brain drain from young people leaving to go to school or find work in more welcoming towns.

“I think if we were a more friendly community in that way, we would not only keep those students here, we would attract more industry and business," Hoffman told WKU Public Radio.

The fairness measure would ban discrimination in housing, employment, and public accommodations based on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity. 

Current Mayor Steve Austin says the controversy split the city 20 years ago and doesn’t want to see that happen again.  The mayor adds that he hasn’t seen evidence of the city needing those protections for LGBTQ members.

"We have a human relations commission that works for the city and county and takes any complaints in that area, and we've not had a single complaint that would be covered in this new ordinance," Austin stated.

Hoffman counters that the local Human Relations Commission is not that visible in the community and she thinks most Henderson residents are unaware of its existence.

The public is invited to a debate on Monday evening between the Fairness Campaign, the ACLU of Kentucky and the Commonwealth Policy Foundation. 

It will take place at Henderson’s Municipal Service Center starting at 5:30 p.m.  A public comment period will follow.

According to the Louisville-based Fairness Campaign, ten cities in Kentucky have adopted fairness laws. They range in size from Louisville and Lexington to the small eastern Kentucky town of Vicco.