Citizens from throughout Owensboro-Daviess County have come out of the woodwork to weigh in on a proposed Fairness Ordinance that has seen business leaders, religious organizations, the citizenry and politicians alike draw ideological lines in the sand.
County Commissioners Mike Koger, George Wathen and Charlie Castlen have, in recent weeks, publicly declared that they would not vote in favor of an ordinance if and when it is ultimately brought before Daviess Fiscal Court. However, one member of the court, Judge-Executive Al Mattingly, has remained uncharacteristically stoic throughout the conversation.
"I didn't have a hard-nosed stance in the beginning," he said. "I wanted to listen to both sides and learn so that I could become better informed on all of the community's concerns. I have spoken with many around the community, and the more letters that I receive, especially from those opposed to an ordinance, the more convinced I am that we need one. As the county judge-executive, I am taking the stance that I believe we need it and am going to propose that we continue to have this conversation. We need to allow folks the opportunity to voice their experiences and opinions."
As the conversation around the ordinance has heated up, Mattingly and the county commissioners have received an outpouring of correspondence from the community, Mattingly said.
"If we are looking at what I have received, I would say it has been 4-to-1 in support of an ordinance," he said. "What I have received from many in opposition has been filled with vitriol. I received an email from one citizen that said, 'I am opposed to any fairness ordinance, it would remove my right to withhold services to anyone in the LGBTQ community based on my religious convictions without impunity. I would be complicit in their sin if I were to enable their sexual behavior.' It is obvious to me that this individual and those that have spoken against it have never had anyone close to them discriminated against."
For Mattingly, the opposition's "stand" against an ordinance, without even hearing or seeing what may or may not be proposed, is "interesting," given that the ordinances that he has studied and that have been passed around the state, "bend-over-backward" to protect the religious freedoms of those concerned, he said.
"The last fiscal court meeting was packed after several pastors announced that there would be a vote," he said. "Which was not true. Ninety or so folks showed up, and we started receiving emails and letters against an ordinance, probably from those same people that showed up to court. I’ve heard that we (the court) need to wait and let someone else handle the divisive issues. I have been told that the federal government or the state should make the decision or that the city of Owensboro is pushing it on the county."
To Mattingly, these recommendations and assertions are no more than a call to "kick the can down the road," he said.
"Is that a call for us to turn our backs against those that are being discriminated against?" he questioned. "If that is what folks are asking, I am not going to heed that call toward bigotry or inaction. I will stand up for these folks. I would ask the community to stand with me and I would ask the community that I was educated in to stand with me. I ask the community that I raised my family in and built my business in to stand with me and demand an ordinance for the LGBTQ community.
"I received a letter saying it doesn't take courage to vote for a nondiscrimination ordinance, but that it takes courage to vote against it. I disagree. I think courage is more exciting than fear and that courage is more exciting than demagogy or sticking your head in the sand in the face of sensationalism and prejudice. I don’t know where this conversation will go, but as judge-executive, I can assure you that we are going to continue the conversation."
Jacob Mulliken, 270-228-2837, firstname.lastname@example.org