Students Support Local Fairness Ordinance

Students Support Local Fairness Ordinance

Over the past year, an idea has been bouncing around Richmond and Eastern's campus: A fairness ordinance provision that would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The City of Richmond Human Rights Commission proposed a provision to the existing fairness ordinance to City Hall that would prohibit discrimination against the LGBT community and those who may be perceived as part of the LGBT community.  The ordinance would only be an amendment to the discrimination laws that are already implemented within the city, said Lisa Cassity, the city clerk.

"No document has been drawn up yet," said Farah Ardeshir, 22, political science major from Berea and co-president of the Alphabet Center, the group heading the push for the ordinance.

After a member from last year's group brought the ordinance to the group's attention, they decided to focus on supporting the addition of the provision, Ardeshir said.

The Center decided to support the ordinance in various ways, mostly focusing on raising funds and awareness.

On Sept. 22, The Alphabet Center sponsored Fairness over Main, a day intended to rally local businesses in support of the ordinance and raise funds that would contribute to covering the cost of the provision for the first year, said Adam Denney, 22, French major from Monticello and co-president of the center.

By comparing court costs and costs associated with investigations concerning discrimination in Covington, which already has an existing LGBT provision, the cost of the Richmond ordinance is predicted to cost approximately $3500 for the next 20 years, members of the Fairness Coalition said.

"That's nothing," Denney said.

But cost has been brought up as a point as to why Richmond will not pass the provision, Mayor Jim Barnes said.

"I don't think that the city could enforce the new laws," Barnes said. "It would be very expensive to [enforce]."

Besides cost, Barnes said he does not foresee Richmond actively supporting the provisions because he said he believes the existing laws already provide adequate protection.

"I don't really see the point in adding sexual orientation to the ordinance," Barnes said. "The current ordinance offers protections based on gender discrimination already. They are all still human beings."

Barnes said Richmond is not going to take the lead on adding sexual orientation discrimination.

"The state and federal government already have discrimination laws that include sexual orientation," he said. "The state defines what discrimination is. We try to listen to them on how to manage it."

Richmond has also recently cut four police officer positions, Barnes added, and he said he does not feel they have adequate staff to support the provision if passed.

Barnes said overall, he does not feel passing the provision to the ordinance is feasible.

Currently, Berea is attempting pass similar ordinances dealings with discrimination.

Berea passed an ordinance that will create a Human Rights Commission, which will protect any citizen from direct or indirect discrimination, according to an article in the Sept. 21 issue of the Richmond Register.

As Berea and Richmond are currently discussing the addition of these provisions, Louisville, Covington and Lexington have added gender identification and sexual orientation to their individual ordinances.

And despite the lack of support from the Richmond City Council, Ardeshir and Denney said they feel the fight needs to continue.

"You can't make a change by going to a bunch of meetings; you have to get out there and gain support," Ardeshir said.  

Barnes said he was unsure of where the situation will go from here.

"Our hope is that those with a problem can go to the Human Rights Commission, and they can send them to the right people to get help," said Barnes. 

Contact Information

Sarah Carpenter (Eastern Progress)

Published on May 13, 2010