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Park Hills to Consider Human Rights Ordinance

Park Hills could become the ninth city in Kentucky - and the third-smallest - to adopt a human rights, or fairness ordinance.
 
Members of city council have discussed a formal proclamation declaring Park Hills to be an inclusive city for all persons since at least August. A draft ordinance was presented that month, and included language recognizing all people regardless of race, color, national origin, refugee status, religion, sex, gender identity (including gender expression), sexual orientation, mental, emotional, and physical ability, age, or economic status.
 
Nearby, Covington adopted a similar ordinance - which primarily rise up in the wake of possible or actual discrimination against people who identify as gay or transgender - in 2003, becoming the third city in Kentucky to do so, behind Louisville and Lexington, each of which did so in 1999. Since then, Vicco, Frankfort, Morehead, Danville, and Midway have all adopted similar ordinances. 
 
The Fairness Campaign states that the eight cities' ordinances protect just over 25 percent of Kentucky's population from anti-gay or transgender discrimination.
 
Park Hills, estimated population 2,999, would be the ninth city in the state to adopt such a measure and is only larger than Vicco (pop. 318) and Midway (pop. 1,706).
 
At Monday night's city council caucus meeting, John C.K. Fischer, who works for the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and is based at Covington City Hall, was joined by Rev. Don Smith, who serves on Covington's human rights commission, which was created by that city's ordinance in 2003. The meeting followed months of delays on the Park Hills proposal.
 
"All of this was precipitated by a bumper sticker," said Mayor Matt Mattone, who referred to an incident some time ago where a car with a bumper sticker insinuating that marriage was between only a man and a woman was parked in front of a home where a gay couple lives. "There is no restriction or ordinance that will make people get along."
 
Fisher said that the state human rights commission formed in 1960 and is aided by local human rights commissions at the city level. 
 
"There are a lot of things to learn about people," said Fisher. "Speaking about the issues helps resolve cases."
 
Rev. Smith brought up the phrase "liberty and justice for all", which everyone said at the beginning of the meeting during the pledge of allegiance.
 
"We need a local human rights commission," he said, "not to show faults, but to show our righteousness. It seems like such an obvious thing. We need to show we are not afraid to address the issues."
 
Smith said that while having a state commission is important, a local commission understands its community and would be made up of local citizens.
 
Mayor Mattone offered statistics about the city: 51 percent of the homes in the city are owner-occupied, and 49 percent are occupied by renters. The median age of people who live in the city is 37. 19.5 percent of the population lives below the poverty level.
 
"The fact that we have 19 percent of people who might not know where their next meal is coming from, and the numbers that suggest we have a more transient population than we thought, says we need a framework for discussion of human rights," said Mattone. "I don't think it is divisive. This is the first in a series of steps to show we stand for all community members."
 
Mattone said he wanted council to be informed about human rights commissions, and he thought the issue was important enough to schedule community meetings to discuss the issue.
 
"We can't do this without broader discussion," he said.
 
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer, RCN contributor
Photo: John C.K. Fisher speaks to Park Hills city council (RCN)