Taylor to introduce county Fairness Ordinance
Because of the early deadline for Thanksgiving, the Sun’s coverage of Tuesday’s meeting of Woodford Fiscal Court will be in next week’s edition. At Tuesday’s Woodford Fiscal Court meeting, Magistrate Liles Taylor (Dist. 1) will introduce a Fairness Ordinance for a first reading that mirrors the one passed by the Versailles City Council last month. If it passes, Woodford County would become the first non-urban county with such a measure, as the only counties to do so are the merged governments in Jefferson and Fayette, according to the executive director of the Fairness Campaign in Louisville. Taylor said he’d talked about the need for a measure protecting gay and transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations during his 2018 campaign for a seat on the court. On Oct. 1, the Versailles City Council passed its version of the gay rights law by a vote of 3 to 2. Taylor represents the Midway area, which passed a Fairness Ordinance 4 to 2 in 2015. Taylor said he modeled the ordinance after the Versailles measure because he “didn’t want anybody to have any confusion or questions about (what) the language means – is there any difference between the two. I thought it was a great opportunity to continue (with) that discussion and move the county forward at the same time.” Taylor said he had “strong support” on the court and wouldn’t introduce the ordinance if he didn’t think it would pass. “This is not about being divisive. It’s not about (creating) conflict in the community. It’s about moving forward and protecting those that suffer too often from discrimination in our culture and across this country …” he said. Taylor said a Fairness Ordinance would also increase economic development opportunities in the county. Midway Mayor Grayson Vandegrift has noted several times that the Fairness Ordinance his city passed did not scare away new employers, with hundreds of jobs added at Midway Station afterwards. In the nearly four-and-a-half years since it passed, no complaints have been filed, Vandegrift said Monday. The county ordinance would be administered and enforced by the Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission (HRC). Violations are subject to civil penalties of $100 to $500. Appeals can be filed with the Fiscal Court within 30 days of the HRC finding. The ordinance makes it unlawful to obstruct a case or retaliate against the complainant, and findings of a frivolous complaint could result in an award of attorney fees and costs to the county and the non-violating party. The ordinance provides exemptions in several areas. In public accommodations, restrooms, shower rooms and similar facilities designed for different genders are exempted. In employment practices, churches, schools, colleges, universities and other religiously affiliated organizations are exempted. A statutory exemption in the ordinance notes that state law (the Religious Freedom Restoration Act) prevents the county from “ … substantially burdening a person’s freedom of religion. Where a person, by action or inaction, violates the provisions of this (ordinance) due to a sincerely held religious belief, the individual or entity alleging the violation must prove by clear and convincing evidence that the County has a compelling governmental interest in infringing the specific act or refusal to act and has used the least restrictive means to further that interest to establish the existence of a violation. …” Taylor said with several new members on the court, he believes the time is right for the county to follow in the footsteps of its two cities. “I know there’s been a lot of misinformation at different times about this issue. I think that between the City of Midway and the City of Versailles, there’s been a lot of opportunity for people to learn more about the issue …” Taylor said. Monday afternoon, Judge-Executive James Kay said if the court votes to hold the first reading Tuesday, he’ll ask if magistrates want to send it to committee first and hold a public meeting later – or vice-versa.