We have stated from the beginning of discussions about a fairness ordinance in Bowling Green that we do not think one is needed. We are still of that opinion.
One of the main reasons is that there have been no widespread reports of LGBTQ people being denied housing, being denied access to businesses or being denied jobs in Bowling Green based on their sexual orientation or identity.
This newspaper quite often receives phone calls or emails with story tips and reports of events that have happened to people. If the claims are credible and newsworthy, we seek further information and, if the information verified, articles may be published. Exceptionally rarely have we heard claims about LGBTQ residents being denied housing or jobs.
For several years now, proponents of a fairness ordinance have shown up at city commission meetings to express their desire to have the ordinance passed. This is obviously their prerogative, but one of the shortcomings we see in their arguments is that only a small number of people have shown up to say they have personally been victims of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or identity. Why is that? If this problem is as widespread as supporters of the fairness ordinance claim, why aren’t more and more of these victims showing up at commission meetings? Every time this proposed ordinance comes up, a small group will speak about their experiences before the commission.
If supporters really want to get a fairness ordinance passed, they need to do it at the ballot box. Last year, several city commission candidates ran as supporters of the fairness ordinance. They were all defeated except Brian Nash, who was an incumbent commissioner, and Dana Beasley-Brown. This indicates that the majority of voters are not motivated to enact a fairness ordinance in Bowling Green.
On Tuesday, supporters and opponents of a fairness ordinance showed up at City Hall to discuss the issue. Until Tuesday, the proposed ordinance had never been brought to a vote after Nash made a motion to do so. Beasley-Brown seconded Nash’s motion to force a vote, but the proposal was voted down by Mayor Bruce Wilkerson and commissioners Joe Denning and Sue Parrigin.
Another issue we have with those pushing this ordinance is their comparison of the fairness ordinance to segregation and the struggles for civil rights in the 1950s and 1960s. Those doing so really need to be careful in going there, because there is simply no comparison between the intense discrimination that blacks faced and what LGBTQ residents are now allegedly going through. Retired Western Kentucky University history professor Howard Bailey used this tactic while speaking Tuesday before the commission, when he said, “Tonight feels like Jim Crow 2.”
Attempting to link what happened to blacks under Jim Crow to Bowling Green’s environment for gay and transgender residents is not only a stretch, it is quite honestly insulting to the black community who suffered widespread institutionalized discrimination during the Jim Crow era – some of whom are still living today. Unlike the Jim Crow era, there are no “No gays allowed” signs posted on doors or windows of restaurants, businesses or government buildings in our city. LGBTQ residents are allowed to use the same water fountains as all residents do, they have the same employment opportunities as all residents do and there are no laws specifically intended to make them second-class citizens.
We also think Beasley-Brown’s argument that passing this ordinance would be good for business is a rather weak one. We take her statement to mean that businesses are not coming here because our city doesn’t have a fairness ordinance, but there is no evidence to suggest this in the slightest. Business in our city is booming, companies are coming here and will continue to come here regardless if we have a fairness ordinance or not.
This fairness ordinance effort, in our opinion, is a solution in search of a problem.
We believe the majority of the commission voted the right way.