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Dozens of blue-shirted supporters of the concept of a so-called “fairness ordinance” crammed into the Shelbyville City Council chambers on Thursday night, with a couple of them standing before the council and TV cameras to support passionately the idea of the city’s adding an equal rights law.
A version of such an ordinance has been passed by city governments in Louisville, Lexington and Covington, and supporters are working at local levels to try to gain acceptance before pushing for a statewide movement that likely would be much more politically sensitive.
Created by the Fairness Campaign, this anti-discrimination ordinance prohibits discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations based on someone’s actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
This concept was brought to the council by the Shelby County chapter of Kentuckians for the Commonwealth, and organizer Leslie McBride turned over the speaking parts to Jane Elkin Thomas and Ann Ellerkamp, two citizens of Shelbyville.
Council members listened quietly without comment or question as Thomas and Ellerkamp spoke, and cameras from WHAS-Channel 11 recorded some of the proceedings.
Thomas was brief in describing her faith and how it dictates that no one be discriminated against. She cited her experiences as a parent and a teacher as background for how she views equality.
“Fairness embodies basic values that I feel are held in Shelby County,” she said. “A survey that was conducted sais that eighty-three percent [of Kentuckians] support these. I would love to see a statewide proclamation, but Shelbyville has an opportunity to take the lead.”
Ellerkamp spoke about family and friends who have been affected by discrimination, but she also talked about the practical issues and the expected impact of passing such an ordinance, including a projected cost of $583 to $750 annually, based on experiences in the cities that have passed ordinances.
“There would likely be one complaint a year,” she said. “That would mean probably one complaint to go to [legal] hearing in twenty years.”
She said there would be no need to add any employees or even create a separate human rights commission, suggesting an appointed group of volunteers could handle most of the issues that might emerge.
She closed with a statement that went to the core issue:
“I have two friends who would have been here tonight to support this effort if they could have done so without fear of losing their jobs,” she said.
The crowd applauded at her conclusion, but, after McBride passed out thick packets of information to each member of the council, there was nothing left for the group to applaud.
“Thank you,” Mayor Tom Hardesty said. “We’ll take it under consideration. Thank you for all the statistics and info you have supplied.”
He moved on to other parts of the agenda, but right before adjournment, McBride asked:
“Are there any questions you would have for any of us?”
Hardesty: “This is a whole lot of information to absorb. As I said earlier, the council will take it under advisement and consideration.”
New position gets 1st OK
The council did approve first reading of an ordinance to create a new position for an engineering/geographical information systems technician in the Public Works department. City Engineer Jennifer Herrell requested the position, which would pay between $27,500 and $45,000 annually, to address the MS4 regulations for storm-water runoff.
“We need someone of more technical background out in the field,” Herrell told the council. “I could keep someone busy for years just in the field. We hope to work with the water company to create GIS maps.”
Herrell said the tradeoff would be an administrative position in the office that answered the phones and routed questions. “The public is going to get to the answering machine more often,” she said. “We will respond as soon as we can.”
The ordinance will get a second reading on Dec. 6.
Also at the meeting, the council: