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Uproar over sexual orientation law spawns commissioners’ vote reversal

HENDERSON, Ky. (BP)–In a 3-2 vote, the Henderson (Ky.) City Commission took the first step toward repealing a “fairness ordinance” prohibiting discrimination in the municipality based on sexual preference for employment, housing and public accommodations.

The ordinance was enacted in the town of 27,000 by a 3-2 vote by then-commission members in the fall of 1999.

The ordinance will be repealed if it passes a second reading scheduled March 13.

A community uproar after the ordinance was enacted led citizens to cast a record number of votes last November in behalf of a majority of commission members opposed to the ordinance. The community response was so overwhelming that the local newspaper earlier limited the number and length of letters to the editor about the issue.

Commissioner Robby Mills, in a prepared statement Feb. 13 announcing his motion to repeal the ordinance, noted that the city’s residents “have spoken at the ballot box on this issue. … I believe this is the moral course of action and this is what the public would have us do.”

“The voters were not represented in this,” Henderson resident Frank Nally testified at a public hearing prior to the Feb. 27 commission vote, according to the local newspaper, The Gleaner. “In my opinion, [repealing the ordinance] is a wrong being made right.”

Ten people testified, with individuals on both sides of the issue noting that no complaints had been filed under the ordinance.

A leader in the effort to enact the ordinance, Katherine Hope Goodman, contended that if the ordinance is repealed “many folks in this community will return to living in fear,” The Gleaner reported. “Civil rights are not a popularity content. Until all of us are free, none of us is free,” she said.

Commissioner Russell Sights was quoted as saying the need for the ordinance “was never justified,” and the former commission majority “imposed their values on the community.”

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