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Dayton Becomes 12th Kentucky City with Fairness Ordinance

By a unanimous vote of city council, Dayton became the twelfth city in Kentucky to adopt a fairness ordinance, extending legal protections to gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people in the Campbell County city of 5,400.

On Tuesday night, the ordinance, pushed by Mayor Ben Baker, made Dayton the second city in Northern Kentucky to adopt such a law. Covington passed similar legislation in 2003. The law prohibits LGBT discrimination in employment, housing, and public accommodations.

Covington economic development director Tom West challenged other cities in the region to join it finally during a Pride celebration in June. Baker answered the call and worked with the Kentucky Fairness Campaign to make it happen.

City council members Scott Beseler, Bill Burns, Denny Lynn, Joe Neary, and Jeff Volter all voted in favor. Councilwoman Tammy Cornett was not present. The mayor only votes in the case of a tie.

"One of the problems I have with this ordinance is, it is sad we have to do this, a city has to do this," Neary said. "I think it's sad we have to do this at the city level and I hope this carries up to the state level, too, so every other city doesn't have to do this."

His remarks drew applause from many in the audience.

Councilman Bill Burns struggled with his vote. Though he referred to the legislation as "a great ordinance", he questioned how it would be enforced and how issues raised because of it would be adjudicated. City Attorney Tom Edge explained that the law would be enforced like most other laws on the city's books, with a complaint raised to the city administrator and then brought to council for a vote.

Councilman Volter also called it "a great ordinance." "It's well overdue, not only for the City of Dayton, but for every other city in the Commonwealth of Kentucky," he said.

"Dayton is extremely excited to be able to join the other eleven cities, out of 419 in the Commonwealth, to continue to be the welcoming community we know and love," said Dayton Mayor Ben Baker upon the ordinance's passage. "If any other river cities need help in embracing the fairness ordinance, please reach out. We urge our state leaders to adopt these protections—in Kentucky, y'all means all."

The ordinance received support from multiple pastors at local United Church of Christ congregations, including Bellevue's St. John United Church of Christ. "While we understand that scripture is sometimes interpreted and God’s name is often invoked for the purposes of judgment and hate, we believe that God is an inclusive God of unconditional love who loves us all," Rev. Keith Haithcock read from the letter. "We are all part of God’s creation and that makes us all equal children of God."

Twenty-one reverends signed the letter.

No one spoke in opposition to the ordinance at Tuesday's meeting.

Dayton joins Louisville (1999), Lexington (1999), Covington (2003), Vicco (2013), Frankfort (2013), Morehead (2013), Danville (2014), Midway (2015), Paducah (2018), Maysville (2018), and Henderson (2019) with fairness ordinances in Kentucky. 2020 will mark the 20th anniversary of the introduction of a Statewide Fairness Law, which has only ever received two informational hearings in the Kentucky General Assembly. This year, nearly a quarter of state legislators co-sponsored the measure.

-Michael Monks, editor & publisher

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