BEREA, Ky. — The Berea City Council has rejected a proposed ordinance that would have banned discrimination based on sexual orientation.
The proposal failed on a 5-3 vote Tuesday night in the Kentucky town in the Appalachian foothills, according to media reports. The meeting drew a standing-room-only crowd, and others filled a former service station next door to watch the deliberations via television.
The measure would have prohibited discrimination against gay, lesbian and transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations.
Councilwoman Violet Farmer, who opposed the measure, expressed support for the concept of treating everyone fairly but questioned the need for “another protected class.”
Chester Powell, another council member who voted against the proposal, cited a lack of documented complaints of discrimination based on sexual orientation. “I’m not seeing any reason for the ordinance,” Powell said.
Farmer said she also was troubled by the discord the issue had stirred in the community.
Councilwoman Diane Kerby, who voted in favor of the proposal, said “just because it’s divisive doesn’t mean we shouldn’t bring it up.”
Article continues below“If there are any of us who do not have equal rights, that affects all of us,” Kerby said. “We’re talking about basic human rights … the right to earn a living and the right to have a place to live.”
Under the proposal, the Berea Human Rights Commission would have investigated and worked to resolve claims of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Violations could have carried penalties of $100 to $250 for first or second offenses and $500 for third or subsequent offenses.
If the measure had passed, Berea would have become the eighth Kentucky city to adopt a fairness ordinance, joining Danville, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville, Morehead, Covington and Vicco in eastern Kentucky.
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