We moved to Owensboro at the beginning of 2021. We were so excited to move to one of the top 100 small towns and experience the hospitality for which Owensboro is famous. We have witnessed many reasons why Owensboro was on the top 100 list and greeted us with such kindness. Two years later when we think of this famed hospitality, it is becoming clearer that it is not for everyone, or at least a small group of loud citizens would like to make it that way.
Saturday we came home to a piece of hate mail from the Daviess County Citizens 4 Decency. They have been pushing for the defunding of the River Park Center since last summer when they started a petition that only had 353 signatures and the counter petition in support of Ghost Light Lounge and RiverPark has over 2,100 signatures. This made us wonder why Judge-Executive Charlie Castlen is listening so closely to this small group of citizens when they clearly do not represent the majority of Owensboro or the values the city prides so much.
In February our mayor said he was “blindsided” by receiving the lowest rating out of Kentucky cities on LGBTQ+ inclusion in laws, policies, and services in a study conducted by the Humans Rights Campaign Foundation. Yet, Daviess County is now defunding one of the only explicitly LGBTQ+ friendly venues in town and is refusing to pass the fairness ordinance in which 17 other cities in Kentucky have signed on. To us the rating seems right in line with how the government is treating LGBTQ citizens.
We know that brain drain from small towns is a real concern and an economic hardship that small towns all over our nation are experiencing. We also know that younger generations are more accepting of LGBTQ+ folks and want to live in more affirming towns. We would ask Owensboro: Can we afford to make our town less welcoming? Do we want to lose thoughtful citizens, like my wife and me, who will not live in a town that is not supportive of all people? Do we want to see Owensboro’s next generation move away because they find this town continues to suppress the growth and success of minorities?
This month is Child Abuse Awareness month. Child abuse happens and it happens more than we want to admit, but the perpetrator is almost always a family member, neighbor, or someone they know. Notice we did not say it was drag queens or trans people, which Daviess County Citizens 4 Decency would have us believe in the hate mail sent out. Janie Marksberry, one of the commissioners pushing to cut the funding, reports her main reason for the cut is concern for children in town. Yet this is a 21+ venue and children have no access. There are real issues facing children’s safety and this is taking time, resources, and attention from those issues.
Owensboro is at a tipping point, what will we do? Do we address the facts and actually help children and other oppressed groups or do we scapegoat a marginalized group, so we do not have to deal with the reality of what is going on? The choice is ours collectively and we hope we make the loving, correct choice for our community.
If you agree with us, please join us May 4 at 5 p.m. at the Fiscal Court as it reviews the budget. We will be there to let them know that we care about LGBTQ programming. You can also email: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected], and [email protected] letting them know that you do not support hate.
John Sinclair and Mary Hansen