The votes needed to pass a proposed Fairness Ordinance in Daviess County aren't there, according to county officials.
Daviess County Commissioners Charlie Castlen, George Wathen and Mike Koger all said Monday that they have decided that they will not vote in favor of a Fairness Ordinance, prior to members of the Owensboro Fairness Campaign and the Owensboro Human Relations Commission presenting Daviess Fiscal Court with a draft ordinance.
"I don't think this type of ordinance will have this kind of support on fiscal court to pass," Wathen said Monday. "It has to have three yeses to pass and I don't think that is going to happen. I don't think that they could change my mind, I never want to say 100% no. I don't think they could draft anything that would change my mind.
"First off, I don't think you can legislate fairness. It is like saying let's legislate and make everyone be nice. If a person wants to be fair, they will, if not, they won't. I'm afraid that both sides will run toward the extremes and there will be more conflict. Most of the complaints that I hear are things that you can't fix with a law -- you can't pass a law to make this happen.
"I think that it is a waste of time and runs the potential to create division and I'm not going to vote for it. I don't want to give those in favor a false hope. ... I don't want to string them along. It isn't fair to them either."
For Castlen, the matter comes down, as he has said in the past, to not wanting to support a measure that could potentially infringe upon the "religious liberties" of Daviess County citizens, he said.
"I don't see any way that I would be a yes vote on the matter," he said Monday afternoon. "It comes down to protecting religious rights. I can't see supporting an order that could be in conflict with the rest of our citizens' religious liberties. I have serious concerns, especially given some of the legal battles that have been happening around the country, particularly Hands On Originals (a Lexington T-shirt printing company that refused to print T-shirts for the city's pride festival)."
Koger voiced similar concerns and said his decision is based largely on his communication with community members, he said.
"From what I have seen from community members that have reached out to me, I have seen about 200 nos and 12 yeses," he said. "I wish it was something that could be on the ballot for the entire community to come out and vote on. I know there are a lot of concerns from the business community as well as the religious community. I don't want anyone to be discriminated against ever. It's a really difficult decision for us on the court. Right now the votes aren't there.
"So right now, I would have to vote no on it," he said.
The Owensboro Human Relations Commission and Owensboro Fairness Campaign will be discussing the possibility of either presenting their ordinance to the court anyway or the next steps that need to be taken knowing going in that the votes won't be there, said Kaitlin Nonweiler, OHRC executive director.
"We have been advised by people in other cities and from the Kentucky Fairness Campaign that if we feel like it can't pass that we should wait until the next election," she said. "That way we can ensure that we know which candidates would support an ordinance and so that we can make sure that the community knows which candidate does and does not support an ordinance. Hopefully, we will be able to encourage people to run on the city and county level that would support one. We want to do this methodically and not rush."
As far as the next steps, there is the upcoming election season and the possibility of approaching the Owensboro City Commission, said Deanna Smith, OHRC board member.
"We may try and push for the city," she said. "We know that commissioners Pam Smith-Wright and Larry Conder are both endorsing it and we would just need one more. I think the mayor will still not touch it, it seems they are still deflective. Especially with Larry (Conder) on board, we may have the chance for the other commissioners. One of the reasons we focused on the county is that we wanted to ensure everyone was guaranteed those protections as opposed them ending at the city line.
"Even bringing it to the court and it failing is important because it highlights the kind of people being elected into these positions, especially given that they seem to have made up their minds without even seeing an ordinance. There probably isn't a chance with the county.
"I for one think we should focus on the city and if that doesn't work there is always election time. If we have to sit in on every meeting like in Bowling Green to get our voice out, then, by God, we will be there."
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, firstname.lastname@example.org