Daviess County commissioners were not ready Friday to commit to voting either for or against a fairness ordinance that members of the city's LGBTQ community would like to see presented to Fiscal Court.
At present, there is no county ordinance for commissioners to consider, so some said they were waiting to see what is actually presented. But two commissioners did express concern Friday about passing an ordinance that could impact religious expression, they said.
On Thursday, Fiscal Court members received a list of 20 accounts of alleged discrimination against the LGBT community in the city and county and heard from three community residents who oppose the county adopting a fairness ordinance.
Such a fairness ordinance would add gender identification and sexual orientation to existing county regulations barring discrimination in housing and employment.
"I think the court is open to listening" to the community's opinions on the issue, Daviess County Judge-Executive Al Mattingly said. For now, "it would be premature" to speculate on how county commissioners would vote when an ordinance is presented, he said.
"I'm still in the learning process," Mattingly said, adding that he has read the fairness ordinance adopted by the city of Georgetown. The Georgetown ordinance was discussed as a model to base a local ordinance on Thursday night by advocates who met at Brescia University.
County Attorney Claud Porter will prepare a draft ordinance based on fairness ordinances from other cities, Mattingly said. A county ordinance would also cover the city of Owensboro.
The LGBT community will need to present what they want in an ordinance to Fiscal Court and say "when they want to move forward," Mattingly said.
Commissioner George Wathen said as of now, "we don't have an ordinance. We don't have anything to read or decide upon."
Wathen said the U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing some of the issues that would be addressed in a fairness ordinance. Earlier this month, Supreme Court justices heard arguments over whether the Civil Rights Act already prohibits job discrimination against people who are LGBT.
"First off, I think the timing is wrong, because the Supreme Court is taking this issue up on a national level," Wathen said.
As for now, "I probably won't vote 'yes,' " Wathen said.
"You can't legislate fairness," Wathen said. He said he opposes discrimination, but, "there are two sides to every story."
Commissioner Charlie Castlen said some of the 20 cases of alleged discrimination Fiscal Court received Thursday seem to have already been decided by law when the Supreme Court ruled in 2015 that same-sex couples had a constitutional right to marry. Castlen said he has a copy of Henderson's fairness ordinance but hasn't studied it.
"No. 1, I don't support discrimination against anyone," Castlen said. But he has concerns such ordinances have harmed people with religious convictions.
Castlen cited an Oregon case, where a wedding cake maker was fined $135,000 for refusing to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
"The fine levied against the baker ... you can be drinking and driving on our roads not have that kind of fine," Castlen said. "... I'm reluctant to say I'd vote 'yes,' but I don't say definitely" until he sees a draft ordinance, he said.
Commissioner Mike Koger said commissioners would gather public comment on the issue.
"We are not going to make any decisions, because we are going to explore the possibilities out there and listen to the people, and hopefully make the right decision," Koger said.
"We want to make sure we read everything and listen to people," Koger said. "I don't like people being discriminated against, but we have to look at both sides."
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, email@example.com, Twitter: @JamesMayse