The community push for a Daviess County fairness ordinance is gaining momentum as community members prepare to draft one for Daviess Fiscal Court.

The Owensboro Human Relations Commission's monthly fairness meeting, at 6 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 17, at Brescia University's Moore Center, will focus on a multitude of topics, said Kaitlin Nonweiler, the commission's executive director.

"One aspect of the meeting will revolve around looking at our online petition and community response on social media," she said. "It may sound silly, but the social media presence is an excellent way to gauge support and nonsupport. We will also be looking at the recently passed ordinance from Georgetown and reading through it and discussing it."

Those attending the meeting will also review seven pages of LGBTQ community members' accounts of discrimination, a document that community member Chad Benefield, a fairness advocate, will present to the court during its regular meeting on the second floor of the Daviess County Courthouse prior to the fairness meeting.

The compiling of community stories and explaining what a fairness ordinance does are vital aspects to this process especially in terms of shedding light on the notion that discrimination is not a common practice in Owensboro and Daviess County, Benefield said.

"We have to present our case in the best possible way," he said. "What I mean by that is that much of the local conversation has been that this doesn't happen here. We know that it does, and it is important that we make this case to the public. I think when they hear these cases and realize that it has happened on their watch that the overwhelming majority of people will say that this is not OK. They will see the need for the ordinance. If the overwhelming majority supports this it will be difficult for anyone to dispute it.

"This is an amendment to an ordinance meant to protect members of the community from discrimination. This isn't just a gay issue. If we allow discrimination against one group it is an invitation to discriminate against others and that is not OK."

In terms of the next steps, that will fall in large part on those advocates who will have to compile a county ordinance and present it for potential court approval, said Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly.

"They will be providing us with the instances of discrimination," he said. "After that, it will be up to the LGBTQ community to propose an ordinance that the court would then look at, make any necessary modifications to and ultimately vote on. It will be a couple of months down the road before it comes up for a vote."

Aside from the collection of cases of discrimination, Nonweiler, Benefield and others have also provided the court with various ordinances that have passed in other cities and are, through the fairness meetings, offering an opportunity for community members on either side of the issue to come in and learn the facts, Benefield said.

"There are always misconceptions about what an ordinance does and it is fair to say that that misconception is shared on both sides," he said. "This is a public service. We are going through the ordinance and we are going to really educate anyone that is interested in what an ordinance like this does, doesn't do and what its parameters are and aren't. This is a benefit to anyone either for or against it. Wherever you stand, it is important to be informed. What it does is simply protect a variety of people from discrimination in the workplace, housing and public accommodations. It is basic human dignity."

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

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