Senate Bill 140 and House Bill 171 would amend Kentucky’s civil rights laws to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Although neither measure is expected to make it out of committee during this legislative session, the proposals sparked heated debate on Monday’s edition of Kentucky Tonight.
The bills would add those two protected classes to the stae civil rights act and cover those individuals from discrimination in employment, sale or lease of property, public accommodations, housing insurance, and financial and credit transactions. Covington, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Morehead, and Vicco already have local fairness ordinances. The Danville City Commission is scheduled to consider a similar law next month.
The Kentucky Tonight panel included Martin Cothran, senior policy analyst for The Family Foundation of Kentucky; Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign; Richard Nelson, executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center; and Enid Trucios-Haynes, president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Kentucky.
Nelson said he was concerned that fairness laws actually force sexual orientation into the workplace hiring process. “How in the world is the employer supposed to know that somebody is homosexual unless you bring it up?” Nelson asked. “I think employers don’t want to go there.”
Trucios-Haynes responded that 90 percent of Fortune 500 companies already have fairness policies in place.
“They’re not asking people in their interviews what their sexual orientation is,” Trucios-Haynes explained. “More often than not what happens is people are denied promotion opportunities or terminated when an employer finds out that they’re LGBT. So no one is asking for preferences; all we’re asking for is that someone not be targeted and discriminated against merely because of their sexual orientation.”