All three County Commissioners say they do not support a nondiscrimination ordinance for Daviess County. The ordinance cannot pass without three out of four votes in favor of the ordinance — an extension to an existing law that would provide local employment, housing and public accommodation protections to the LGBTQ community.
County Commissioner George Wathen said he was still opposed to the ordinance and did not think it would be put to a vote. Commissioner Mike Koger said, as of now, he was against it, but that he’d still like to hear from fairness ordinance supporters at the next Fiscal Court meeting.
Commissioner Charlie Castlen said he was opposed to the ordinance, which would prevent the LGBTQ community from housing discrimination, in the same way he was against unmarried heterosexual couples cohabitating. His fairness ordinance opposition wasn’t about picking and choosing a line out of the Bible condemning homosexuals, but said his opposition would be in place against any lifestyle or behavior he found morally objectionable.
“If somebody feels strongly that something’s wrong, I don’t think it’s right for the government to compel them to go against their religious beliefs,” he said. “I’m not a fan of people cohabitating, which is very common these days. I’m not going to want to rent to them, and the same thing with a gay couple. In my mind, I’d be complicit in encouraging their way of life.”
Judge-Executive Al Mattingly told Owensboro Times last week that he believed things were just getting started with the back-and-forth on the ordinance, and that after the last Fiscal Court meeting, where members of a religious coalition filled the seats to show opposition, he expected the next meeting to be filled with supporters of the ordinance.
Human Relations Commission Executive Director Kaitlin Nonweiler agreed, saying that even with three commissioners expressing opposition, the HRC and those in support of the ordinance were in no way giving up the fight.
“We’re still moving forward — this isn’t over by any means,” she said, adding that the HRC and others would like to hear from opponents of the ordinance — to address possible misconceptions and concerns — before officially proposing the ordinance before Fiscal Court. Once officially proposed, it would be up to Fiscal Court to determine whether the ordinance is put on an agenda.
Without three votes in support of it, the nondiscrimination ordinance cannot be passed countywide, but Nonweiler said she hopes the HRC and others can educate and encourage more opponents to see things differently and read up on the Georgetown ordinance that Daviess County’s will be based off of.
But if the ordinance were to fail at the County level, is there any chance the City could decide to take it on? According to Mayor Tom Watson, the answer is likely no.
“I have stated from the beginning to Ms. Nonweiler that it is my opinion that if [an ordinance] passes, it should be countywide, as there are too many pockets inside the City limits for it to be enforceable,” Watson said. “It’s no different than when the smoking ban was passed.”
City Commissioners Pamela Smith-Wright and Larry Conder expressed support toward the ordinance last week.
Smith-Wright said she feels many people who are against the ordinance are picking and choosing the parts of the Bible that fit their agenda. Even more, Smith-Wright said she’s been discriminated against as a black woman, that she’s lived through that experience, and that she would never inflict that discrimination onto others.
“I have my beliefs, but I also know what’s written in the Bible. These people are taking out what they want to take out [of the Bible] instead of reading the entire thing,” she said. “The Bible also said, ‘Judge not yet ye shall be judged.’ There’s someone higher than me that’s going to be the judge of everything. But how can I sit there and not want for every single person in this community to have the same rights and fairness when they pay the same taxes as everyone else?”
Conder said the “rule of three” would apply to City Commission the same way it applies to Fiscal Court in getting the ordinance passed. Watson and the four City Commissioners would have to vote three-to-two to see it take effect.
Watson said he assumes the Human Relations Commission and other supporting the nondiscrimination ordinance would want it passed countywide as well, adding that he isn’t deflecting, but that it wouldn’t make much sense to pass it city wide.
“It’s not good government to pass an ordinance that is not enforceable for the sake of just passing an ordinance,” he said.