Opponents of a proposed Fairness Ordinance showed up in force at Daviess Fiscal Court on Thursday night to support Southside Fellowship Church Pastor John Fowler as he voiced concerns about the prospect of the ordinance.

A "fairness ordinance" seeks to extend protections from discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodations.

During the public hearing portion of the meeting, Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly addressed the crowd of more than 100 people and requested that Fowler present the court with the concerns compiled by Fowler and those involved with the Joshua 6:16 Mandate coalition, a group of religious leaders opposed to the ordinance, after thanking the community for their calls and emails regarding their respective positions on the issue.

"People in our group have spent time speaking with the Human Relations Commission and Chad Benefield (a fairness ordinance advocate)," he said. "These conversations have been fruitful and we hope they continue. We have read the Georgetown ordinance and our concerns are based off of that. The recent proposal of a fairness ordinance in Daviess County has created much concern about Christians, religious leaders and business owners."

Fowler went on to say that as Christians they aim to love their neighbors despite differences and that, "oppression, hate and divisiveness," should be avoided by all parties, however, he said, the proposed ordinance is unnecessary.

"This ordinance is subversive to the principles of liberty and could potentially contribute to promote conflicts and division in our community. Reason one, the legislation is unnecessary. Laws of any sort should only be proposed on

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sufficient grounds proving their necessity for liberty and justice or some measure thereof. Citizens should not be encumbered by laws for the sake of ensuring freedom from offense or discomfort. The push for sexual orientation and gender identity laws seems to suffer from lack of necessity," he said.

Fowler went on to say that, "liberty supersedes fairness," and that the fundamental 1st Amendment right to freedom of religion should not be, "sacrificed on the altar of fairness, niceness or preventing hurt feelings." His subsequent reasons went on to highlight how they fear that the religious community will be forced to be complicit in a lifestyle they don't agree with and that the potential of "frivolous" lawsuits could hurt local business.

When Fowler finished reading on behalf of the religious community of Owensboro-Daviess County, Mattingly asked those in the room opposed to the ordinance to stand. Everyone in attendance, except for court employees, stood.

Fowler's address to the court is a continuation of an ongoing dialogue among community members such as Benefield and Fowler with court officials in recent weeks. Benefield, like Fowler, presented the court with examples of perceived discrimination in the community against those in the LGBTQ community and gave an impassioned plea to officials to consider the ordinance at a meeting on Oct. 17.

In terms of the next steps, that will fall in large part on those fairness advocates who will have to compile a county ordinance and present it for potential court approval at a future meeting.

Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, jmulliken@messenger-inquirer.com

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