By Associated Press - Wednesday, May 28, 2014

DANVILLE, Ky. (AP) - The Danville City Commission has altered a proposed gay rights ordinance to exempt religious groups after a Baptist-affiliated organization threatened to leave the city.

The City Commission changed the proposed ordinance on Tuesday, and members voted 3-2 in favor of the revised ordinance on its first reading Tuesday, The Advocate Messenger ( reported.

At the commission’s meeting last month, an attorney for Sunrise Children’s Services said it would move its child care center out of Danville if the ordinance did not include an exemption. The Baptist-affiliated agency receives a significant portion of its funding from the government, but it refuses gay job applicants.

Commissioner Paul Smiley proposed the change. The previous ordinance included an exemption, but only for religious groups that receive less than half of their funding from government sources.

“I’m concerned about fairness,” said Smiley. “I believe that we will have a good fairness ordinance, but this would, if I’m correct and I believe I am, exempt Sunrise Services. I believe that compromise is the way of our country and I think we can still have a good ordinance, but this compromise is acceptable to me.”

The ordinance, similar to others enacted in a handful of Kentucky cities, would make it illegal to discriminate based on sexual orientation or gender identity in cases of employment, housing or public accommodations.

Several residents thanked the commission for making the change while others voiced their disappointment with the commission’s decision.

Centre College professor Daniel Kirchner questioned what happened from the last meeting to warrant the change in the ordinance.

“Surely the legal arguments have not changed at this point, nor have the legal facts,” said Kirchner. “I wonder what it is about our community that makes it the kind of place that, when there is a threat from a particular institution who has the power and the money to hire an attorney and to get their way onto the agenda and to have executive sessions because they can threaten legal action.”

Chris Hartman, director of the Fairness Campaign, which has advocated for the gay rights ordinances in several Kentucky cities, said the Danville commission succumbed to “legal bullying and scare tactics.”

“No organization - especially one supported almost wholly by taxpayer dollars - deserves the right to discriminate,” Hartman said in a release. “There is still time for Danville’s commission to do what’s right in this situation, which is not to cower before legal smoke and mirrors that have been shattered in other cities.”

The commission will vote on a second reading next month.


Information from: The (Danville, Ky.) Advocate-Messenger,

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