WHAT WE THINK: A Fairness Ordinance should be considered by Shelbville

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Council member Mike Zoeller made a good point when he sugggested some residents aren't protected from discrimiination.

Shelbyville City Council member Mike Zoeller made a really good point during a recent council meeting, a point we would encourage him to make again – only louder.

When discussing the federal Fair Housing Law that the city council was about to sign so that it could move forward with its plans to acquire a grant so that the historic Blue Gables property on Main Street could be purchased and restored, Mr. Zoeller asked this:

“My question is, ‘Did we leave anyone out with this?’ What about gay people? Could a gay couple be turned down because of this? It notes religion, ethnicity, race and other things, but should we include that [gay people]?”

Yes, what about that?

Shouldn’t the rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transsexual people also be protected by this law?

We realize that the law in question is subject to review by Congress and federal courts, and we respect that Shelby County largely is a conservative community that does not want in some cases to confront or embrace broad issues that affect our populace.

But we also realize that all people deserve equal protection under the law, and any form of discrimination is unacceptable in our society and in our community.

The effort to clear the requirements so that the city can receive the required grant to gain control of the Blue Gables is simply a new stage for what should be a very large production.

What Mr. Zoeller is suggesting is that the city consider whether our ordinances are inclusive of all our residents. Currently, we would suggest, they are not.

What Mr. Zoeller is suggesting is that the city in fact should consider the need for a Fairness Ordinance, the sort of ordinance that was suggested to the city council several months ago and dismissed for lack of action. Perhaps Mr. Zoeller, a Democrat, could take action.

Shelbyville is far from San Francisco when it comes to diversity, but it seems curious to us that we have ordinances in place that, in effect, would protect the rights of those living illegally in our community while leaving exposed others simply because they may lead different lifestyles.

A Fairness Ordinance, as adopted in Louisville, Lexington, Covington and the town of Vicco – which is akin to Bagdad, albeit incorporated – simply is a basic step to ensure that those discriminations do not occur.

It is not an endorsement of a lifestyle but simply an understanding that some Americans are different and deserve to be treated equally despite that, just as they should if they are African-American, Muslim, Hispanic or even Wiccan.

Think about that: Our laws and ordinances would protect religious sects that portend to worship the devil but are not inclusive of specific protections to some of our brothers, sisters, cousins, parents and, yes, neighbors.

Responding to Mr. Zoeller’s question at that council meeting, City Attorney Steven Gregory said this:

“This applies to current federal law, and they [gay people] would not fall into a protective class as defined by the federal government. There are other avenues in society that do provide protection for those groups. That’s what Fairness Ordinances are trying to accomplish now. If a Fairness Ordinance has been enacted, this is something that would it would address.”

Replied Mr. Zoeller: “Well, I’m just wondering, because this can be an issue now.”

Yes, Mr. Zoeller, it is an issue now.

It’s an issue that the Supreme Court elevated last week when it upheld laws that allow gay couples to marry in some states.

It’s an issue that won’t go away just because we ignore it and step away from it.

Yes, Shelby County is a conservative community, but, moreover, it’s a loving community that has evolved to embrace a variety of differences and expand its horizons.

Wouldn’t a Fairness Ordinance appear the next logical step in reinforcing that image?

To us, the only truly fair thing to do is to take that step.