The first meeting for working toward a fairness ordinance in Owensboro was Thursday night and more than 40 community members attended in support.
Chris Hartman, executive director of Kentucky’s Fairness Campaign and Joan Hoffman, former mayor of Henderson spoke to the group about a fairness ordinance, how to get community support and the best approach to bring the idea to the city commission.
The ordinance would protect individuals from discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Fairness Campaign is Kentucky’s LGBTQ advocacy organization and Hartman said part of the group’s mission is to come where people call.
“Anytime an organization or person reaches out to us in any way around social justice issues or fairness ordinances, I hop in the car and go,” he said. “We don’t go to work where people have not invited us. The Human Relations Commission asked us to come and share the knowledge that we have.
“We want to be a resource for people to help them achieve the goals they are working toward. We want to share what we know and help others succeed. We’re excited to see the reinvigoration of the (fairness) movement here in Owensboro. It was so robust for so long, it’s so marvelous to see it happening again.”
Hartman said this momentum is not uncommon since the recent passing of fairness ordinances in other Kentucky cities such as Henderson and Dayton.
“We have seen another huge surge in cities across the Commonwealth that are interested in pursuing fairness ordinances,” he said.
Kaitlin Nonweiler, executive director of the Owensboro Human Relations Commission, said the purpose of Thursday’s meeting was to convene people who are passionate about having a fairness ordinance.
“We wanted people in the community to be able to listen to Chris Hartman and what he is doing with the Kentucky Fairness Campaign and to get a basic overview of the fairness ordinance and what we need to do to get it passed in Owensboro,” she said.
Nonweiler said the goal of the meeting was to figure out the group’s next step. At their next monthly meeting on Sept. 16 instead of having a guest speaker, they will plan out their timeline and how they are going to present the fairness ordinance to the city commissioners.
“I think tonight’s meeting was a success,” she said. “I encourage people to reach out to the Human Relations Commission and for them to tell us their story if they have experienced discrimination.”
Deanna Jacqueline Smith, head of the Owensboro Fairness Campaign, said while she hasn’t felt a lot of discrimination, she said she knows a lot of people who are transitioning or identify as queer.
“Providing them safety is what’s important,” she said. “That’s why I fight for a fairness campaign.”