The journey to pass Fairness in Danville | Kentuckians For The Commonwealth

The journey to pass Fairness in Danville

On the evening of June 9, the city of Danville became the 7th city in Kentucky to pass a local LGBT anti-discrimination ordinance when the Danville City Commission approved a Fairness ordinance with a 4-1 vote. It was a long road to get there, one that local members of the Wilderness Trace KFTC chapter started walking back in 2012, shortly after the chapter officially formed.

Leading the way to pass Fairness in Danville were local KFTC members, Jane Brantley and Eric Mount. Well before their work on Fairness in Danville, both Jane and Eric worked in various ways for LGBT equality, from urging legislators to oppose the same-sex marriage amendment in 2004 (this amendment was recently ruled unconstitutional) to supporting their churches moving forward for LGBT equality. It wasn’t until 2012 that they felt moved to work for a Fairness ordinance in Danville.

 “I became aware that cities in Kentucky were beginning to examine passage of local Fairness ordinances,” said Jane. “When the small town of Vicco in eastern Kentucky passed its ordinance, I thought, ‘Why not Danville? After all, we’re supposed to be the City of Firsts. We need to get busy.”

Eric Mount speaks in support of a Fairness ordinance in Danville

At a KFTC meeting in the fall of 2012, Jane and Eric decided to work together on passing a LGBT anti-discrimination Fairness ordinance in Danville. That conversation set them off on a long winding path that brought many others into the fold. Local organizing included a wide range of pieces, including conversations with the Fairness Coalition, researching existing ordinances in Kentucky, gaining the support of local allies like Citizens Concerned for Human Relations (CCHR) and the Boyle County Human Rights Commission, countless meetings with local city and county officials, discussing strategy at Wilderness Trace KFTC chapter meetings, writing letters to the editor, talking to their neighbors, and speaking at City Commission meetings.

It wasn’t until early 2014 that the Danville City Commission had an ordinance in its hands to consider. The Danville City Commission held two workshops to discuss the proposed ordinance and to gather input from the public. While a vocal minority spread misinformation with, sometimes, hateful language throughout town, KFTC members and allies were out in force at both workshops to make strong arguments for LGBT equality in their community.

Following these workshops, local organizing work continued, and KFTC members were present and spoke at each City Commission meeting that Fairness was discussed. Jane and Eric, along with local ally Tim Culhan, worked together to dig deep into the proposed ordinance language to see how it could be improved to best serve everyone in the community. They had frequent meetings with the City Manager and City Commissioners to discuss revisions, and their persistence paid off as a number of their suggestions were eventually adopted in ordinance language.

Jane Brantley speaks for Fairness at City Commission meeting

Local KFTC members and community members worked tirelessly to support the best possible ordinance for Danville. A big obstacle came in the way of that when, in early May, Sunrise Children’s Services threatened to sue the city of Danville if the Fairness ordinance was passed and leave town if their suit failed. (Because Sunrise is not owned or controlled by the Southern Baptist Convention, merely affiliated, they would not have been exempt from the ordinance under its original language). Many took issue with Sunrise’s threat, one of the many reasons being that they receive a majority of their funding from the government and should not be afforded the opportunity to discriminate while receiving taxpayer funding.

On the evening of May 27, when the ordinance was due to pass with a second reading, an amendment was added that exempted “faith-based” service providers. It became clear that this amended version was put forth to appease Sunrise and avoid a lawsuit. This new version received a first reading that evening, but members never gave up on passing the ordinance Danville deserves. For the next two weeks, their efforts ramped up, contacting City Commissioners, talking with community members, making phone calls, and writing letters, in an effort to convince the Commission to revert back to the previous ordinance.

At the June 9 meeting, a slew of KFTC members gave powerful testimony before the Commission, urging them to not kowtow to threats and to instead act in the best interest of everyone in the community. After hours of discussion and a failed last-ditch effort by Commissioner Atkins to revert to the previous ordinance, the Danville City Commission passed the amended Fairness ordinance with the “faith-based” exemption 4-1, with the Mayor being the lone dissenting vote. With that, Danville became the 7th city in the state to adopt a local Fairness ordinance.

While members were disappointed that the strongest possible ordinance did not pass, they still celebrate the work they’ve accomplished and the large role they played in passing an ordinance that has significant protections for LGBT people from discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Fairness Coalition image celebrating Danville's passing a Fairness ordinance

This year-and-a-half campaign provided a lot co celebrate. Among the positive outcomes, Eric includes “the emergence of a concerted, committed persistent Fairness constituency including several organizations—CCHR, Wilderness Trace KFTC, Danvillians for Fairness—and a variety of religious and non-religious, Centre affiliated and non-Centre affiliated, young and older advocates.”

Lee Ann Paynter who spoke at numerous Commission meetings acknowledged that it was disheartening to see how elected officials seemed to act partly out of fear, but she said the experience of working on Fairness was also encouraging. “We have come together as a group to raise the voices of equality and fight for the rights of our fellow citizens,” said Lee Ann. “We have met others in our community with whom we can build a future for social justice. We have raised awareness about the issue of civil rights and LGBT equality in our town. And we do have a Fairness ordinance in Danville, which offers rights to community members, all of whom deserve to have the same opportunities and protections as everyone else.”

Cay Shawler, another local KFTC member who spoke at several Commission meetings, said, “I realize I am only one part and that is a comfort. It was so important to have good colleagues and friends in this effort. Surround yourself with support. I am always inspired by doing the ‘right thing’ for people and enlarging the view of caring for each other.”

While the road to Fairness had its ups-and-downs, it also brought real joy, camaraderie, and growth as Wilderness Trace KFTC members worked together with community allies to work for justice for the LGBT community. Lessons learned and relationships formed on the road to Danville becoming the 7th city in Kentucky to pass a local Fairness ordinance will stay with KFTC members as they continue working for social justice in their communities.

Tweets from the June 9 Danville City Commission meeting can be read in the Storify slideshow below.