State Human Rights Commission Passes Social Justice Resolutions
From the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights:
The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights at its Board of Commissioners meeting in Louisville this week passed six social justice resolutions in honor of the Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday on Monday, January 21.
The resolutions, which are calls for action to legislators and the public, will be submitted to Governor Steve Beshear, the Kentucky State Legislature, and the Kentucky delegation to the U.S. Congress.
“There are human and civil rights challenges that need to be met in our great state,” said John J. Johnson, executive director of the commission, “and we believe it is important to recognize the significance of this special holiday by addressing some of these issues while the General Assembly is in session.
“All Americans have rights and opportunities that never would have been achieved had it not been for the leadership of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others throughout our state and national history,” Johnson said. “Dr. King came to Kentucky several times during the 1960s to help our state become the first in the south to pass a Civil Rights Act, and we are proud to submit these resolutions in honor of him."
Summaries of the Resolutions:
1. Resolution Supporting Efforts to Increase Voter Participation in Kentucky
Since 1960, when the Kentucky General Assembly adopted polices of nondiscrimination and formed the Kentucky commission on Human Rights, it has been an essential function and duty of the commission to encourage fair treatment for all persons. All eligible voters in the state should be afforded fair opportunities to vote regardless of personal circumstances that may prevent attendance at the polls on Election Day. Working class persons, minorities, older persons and persons with disabilities are frequently unable, due to mitigating circumstances, to vote on election days. Therefore, the commission in this resolution asks legislators and the public to push for increasing access and opportunities for eligible voters by enacting laws or amendments that would provide, for example, options like “no-excuse” early voting, access to voting polls on weekends, fewer restrictions on absentee voting, voting-by-mail systems and same-day voter registration.
2. Resolution in Support of Raising the High School Dropout Age to Eighteen in Kentucky
The document states that Kentucky consistently ranks high among states in high school dropout rates, which adversely and disproportionately affect people of low incomes and people belonging to civil rights protected classes. Empirical evidence suggests that high school dropouts will typically be denied equal employment opportunities. The commission asks the state to raise the high school drop-out age to eighteen in order to make available to the state the full productive capacities of its members.
3. Resolution Reaffirming Support of Amending the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as Protected Classes
The commission passed a resolution in 2008 asking the legislature to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. This new resolution reaffirms the commission’s support of this. It states that Louisville, Lexington and Covington have passed Fairness Ordinances with positive results for citizens (Vicco, Kentucky also passed a Fairness Ordinance earlier this week on Jan. 14.) Sixteen other states and Washington D.C. have laws that prohibit discrimination based on the classes. The document points to a Kentucky Survey that found 83 percent of those polled agreed the two classes should be protected from discrimination. Protection from discrimination in one’s pursuit of employment, housing and accessing the goods and services of public accommodations are fundamental freedoms that should include every Kentuckian. The commission again urges legislators to add the protected classes to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
4. Resolution in Support of Effective and Reasonable Federal and State Gun Control Legislation
The resolution points to 21 mass killings involving firearms that have occurred in the U.S. since the passage of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act in 1966. It states that evidence suggests that most, if not all, of the perpetrators of these massacres were persons suffering from some form of emotion disorder or mental disease and were able to acquire firearms including semi-automatic assault weapons. The commission asks the General Assembly to urge the Kentucky members of the U.S. Congress to push for reasonable and effective federal gun control laws.
5. Resolution in Support of State and Local Policies, Ordinances and Laws which Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Choice by All Persons
The document points to evidence demonstrating that even though fair housing laws have been in place for over 40 years, housing discrimination is still prevalent in Kentucky. The Kentucky Housing Corporation (KHC) and various state organization analyses identify and provide viable solutions to address and alleviate current levels of discrimination and segregation in housing choice, including the adoption of planning and zoning and land use development laws that affirmative further fair housing choice by encouraging desegregation and non-discrimination. The commission asks the state to continue its legacy of human rights leadership and to join with the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and other agencies, and enact legislation that implements their recommendations concerning the reform and mandating the reform of state and local planning and zoning and land use development laws.
6. Resolution Encouraging National Immigration Reform and Opposing State Policies Which May Result in Unfair Discrimination Against immigrants
The document states it is estimated there are over 140,000 immigrants residing in Kentucky comprising nearly 3.2 percent of the population. According to a 2008 study by the Perryman Group, at least 34,455 undocumented immigrants held permanent jobs at that time in Kentucky, and removing undocumented people from the state would result in a $1.7 billion loss in economic activity and a $765.8 million loss in gross state product. The Immigration Policy Center reported that undocumented immigrants in Kentucky paid $85.1 million in state and local taxes in 2010. The commission asks the state to continue its legacy of human rights leadership by supporting policies and laws that protect all Kentuckians from discrimination based on race, color, or national origin and in so doing, to protect the fair and equal treatment of all persons regardless of their immigrant status.
Source: Kentucky Commission on Human Rights