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Bumper Sticker Still Causing Debate, Prompting Questions in Park Hills

As Park Hills continues to mull the possibility of creating a human rights commission, which would make it the tenth city in the state to do so and the second in Northern Kentucky, the issue that started the initial conversation returned to city council on Monday.

A bumper sticker on a car was originally reported to have read something along the lines of "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve". That was viewed as an anti-gay message by a married gay couple that lived in a house on the same street as the vehicle's owner.

A human rights commission and the accompanying fairness ordinance, as they are often known, would offer protections to gay people and other minorities when they believe they have experienced discrimination or harassment.

Mark Cooper, a resident and former member of city council, said at Monday's meeting that the resident lied about what the bumper sticker said.

"The first amendment supports free speech and free religion," Cooper said, adding that he does not support the message of the bumper sticker and that it serves no purpose in the community. Cooper said the real victim in the case, though, was "the young woman" who owns the bumper sticker because she allegedly received threats afterwards. "I think the city has become culpable in the well-being of this young lady because now we are, six months later, this narrative still continues." 

Mark Cooper addresses council (RCN)

In November, Bob Ford, the resident who first complained about the bumper sticker, sent an email to city council apologizing for not quoting the bumper sticker accurately. The sticker actually read, Cooper said, holding up what he said was a printed copy of the bumper sticker, "Male and female he created them." The sticker include the image of a man and woman symbol appearing to be holding hands and a citation for Genesis 1:27.

"This is a creationist bumper sticker," Cooper said, "creationists versus evolutionists, OK? That's all it is."


Though Ford quoted the bumper sticker inaccurately, he said the sticker's message meant the same thing as he suggested before. 

Following the concern about the bumper sticker, the vehicle's owner reportedly began to receive threats. "I also do not appreciate the insinuation that the threats towards our neighbor are coming from us," Ford wrote in an email to council. "We, too, feel threatened and would not wish that on anyone or do that (to) anyone."

Cooper accused Mayor Matt Mattone of holding a private meeting with council members about the letter as an effort to keep it from being brought up. He said Mattone want to mislead the public and the media in order to promote a perceived need for a human rights commission.

Cooper went on to ask council members in support of the ordinance to answer why the issue has dragged on for so many months. His remarks were met with applause from some at the meeting.

Mattone said that following the report of the bumper sticker, Police Chief Cody Stanley looked into the matter and concluded that no laws had been broken. 

"The answer to Mr. Cooper's question is that if we all get along so well, this incident points out that we could do better," the mayor said. "Recognizing our differences will help us bridge those gaps. When we look at how to make our community better, we could use a framework, an environment to talk about incidents like these.  A human rights commission is one of those frameworks."

Ford, who has since moved out of Park Hills, sent another email to city council following Monday's meeting. With his permission, it was forwarded to The River City News.
In the email, Ford reiterated that he apologized for incorrectly stating the wording on the bumper sticker but that he believed the intent of the message was the same. "This is an act of aggression," Ford wrote. "Call it what you will, but it is clear to me that those of you, including Mark Cooper, who are upset about this are upset that the gay men stood up against the bullies. Many of you have been running Park Hills with a heavy hand for many years and your tenure is now threatened.
"Calling someone a liar without proof is not a Christian and certainly not Catholic teaching. Standing up for what is right and just is an act of Christianity."
Written by Patricia A. Scheyer and Michael Monks for The River City News