Fairness to get new push in Shelbyville

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Group plans to bring forward proposal at next council meeting

By Cameron Koch

Fairness will be once again making its way to the Shelbyville City Council after the Kentuckians for the Commonwealth have caught wind of recent comments made by council member Mike Zoeller.

“I didn’t necessarily think Shelbyville was entirely in play,” Fairness campaign director Chris Hartman said Thursday at a meeting of the Shelby County chapter of KFTC. “We have great grassroots support here, but we didn’t have any support on the city council.”

But comments made by Zoeller at a meeting June 20, while passing the Fair Housing Resolution have renewed hope for KFTC that a Fairness Ordinance could yet pass in Shelbyville.

The passing of the Fair Housing resolution was required for the city to become eligible to receive a grant for the purchasing of the Blue Gables Motel, causing Zoeller to remark that the federal resolution that protects against discrimination left out one group in particular – gays.

“I’m just not for anyone being prejudiced against – not for race, gender, religion, sexual orientation or anything,” Zoeller said. “I’m not going to start pushing for anything, but I am going to try to learn more. I’m going to look more into it. I just want to do what I think is right.”

And KFTC is going to do its best to educate him on the matter. The group announced their plans Thursday to get in contact with Zoeller and to propose another Fairness Ordinance at the city council’s next meeting, which will be Aug. 8.

The council turned down the opportunity to take action in November when a Fairness Ordinance first was requested by KFTC. A few cities across the state have adopted Fairness Ordinances, including Louisville, Lexington, Covington and Vicco, a town in Eastern Kentucky with only 335 residents, which became the smallest U.S. city with a nondiscrimination law in January, when it approved a Fairness Ordinance that included sexual orientation and gender identity. Frankfort, according to KFTC, in August is expected to become the fifth city in the state to pass a Fairness Ordinance, although its leaders have proposed to rename the ordinance.

Hartman said a representative from the Lexington Fair Housing will be attending the meeting to offer financial, training and investigative assistance to the city, should the city pass a Fairness Ordinance.

Hartman said Lexington Fair Housing would help pay to enforce and investigate housing discrimination claims, which Hartman said would cover about a third of what it would cost to enforce the ordinance in the city.

“The fiscal impact for the city of Shelbyville is maybe going to be around a thousand dollars a year,” he said.

Even if the Fairness Ordinance is proposed and shot down, Hartman said, that would be a victory just to get the conversation going once again.

“What we know consistently is that when we talk about this issue out in the open, the other side’s arguments just don’t stand up, and they end up looking a little hateful.…We have very rational arguments,” Hartman said. “We have statistics on our side, public opinion is on our side, so I really think this can become a real prominent issue in the city over the course of the next six months.

“We are in for the long haul. Even if we only have one council member on our side, it may just be one council member, but we can do a lot of chipping away here. That’s super exciting.”