Public forum addresses concerns over proposed human rights ordinance

People in a local city debated whose rights their government should protect. “All lives matter, regardless of how any one group or entity may choose to feel about those lives on a personal level,” said Tracie Gilbert.

There are major concerns in Murray centering on whether the city should change their human rights ordinance to include LGBTQ groups. Unlike other minorities, Kentucky law doesn’t protect them from discrimination in housing, employment, or public accommodations.

Seven cities in Kentucky have already passed laws that make it illegal to discriminate against people because of their sexual orientation or identity. Murray would be the first in the western part of the state, but people on all sides of the argument there want to air their opinions out first.

44 years ago, council members in Murray voted a human rights ordinance into law that protects minority groups from discrimination. “The city of Murray has changed a lot in four decades, but this ordinance hasn’t,” said Murray Human Rights Commission Chair Jody Randall. Their unanimous vote to update the law is being met with arguments. “I don’t want to bring sexuality into the work place,” said Barry Morris, “I don’t want the pressure on me, as a business manager, to feel like I have to hire someone when and if I find out they are homosexual or transgender.”

People representing small businesses said it would cause distractions in the work place, and religious arguments were made both against and for the changes. “Some things in this ordinance are contrary to God’s word,” said John Randolph. Renee Meyer said, “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever flowing stream. May that be the case in Murray, the friendliest small town in America.”

The personal stories that came out of the packed room are the reason Randall said the revisions are so vital. Joe Hedges, a man who went apartment shopping in Murray with his partner said, “I was told we don’t rent to your kind.” Murray State University student Michele Sumner said, “I just want to know that my sexual orientation is not going to prevent me from using the education I’m getting at Murray State.”

Despite their fears, some people still said changing the law won’t change anything. A majority of the comments in the open forum were in favor of the proposed revisions that include protecting LGBTQ groups and setting up a process for the commission to deal with complaints. Other arguments against the changes came from people who don’t think they’re necessary, or who had a problem with how they are written.  

Randall said they are open to possibly changing how some of the revisions are written, but the intent and motivation behind what they are trying to do probably won’t change. Murray City Council members will ultimately decide whether the proposed ordinance becomes a law.

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