Bowling Green's City Commission should be commended for rejecting the so-called "Fairness Ordinance" on Tuesday. Since 2015, the Commission respectfully listened to dozens of publicly comments advocating for the ordinance. As soon as the motion failed to receive a second, the room was filled with taunts of "shame, shame, shame." What happened to tolerance?
Members of the Fairness Campaign make it sound like Bowling Green is in dire need of an ordinance protecting sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) in areas of housing, employment and public accommodations. However, the SOGI ordinance raises more questions than anything. Why is the ordinance necessary? How many documented cases of sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination are there in Bowling Green? Could it potentially punish business owners who refuse to materially participate through their products or services in gay weddings? Does this ordinance protect crossdressing in the workplace? Would it affect restrooms and locker rooms at parks and other properties owned by the city?
Troubling questions? Certainly. But they deserve answers.
Some of those that have spoken to the City Commission say the ordinance would only affect a business’s hiring practices. However, fairness ordinances are being used to accomplish much more across the United States. A state SOGI law in Washington is being used to punish Barronelle Stutzman for refusing to provide a floral arrangement for a gay wedding. Fairness laws have been used across the country to punish bakers, photographers and florists, like Stutzman, who refuse to materially participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies through their goods or services.
When it comes to hiring, a major criticism of SOGI laws is that they drag private sexual behavior into the workplace by forcing employers to somehow consider a prospective employee’s sexuality. How can an employer be sure of every applicants sexual orientation or gender identity unless they ask specifically? It's a catch 22 and could be entirely avoided by keeping an individual's private sex life out of the interview process.
What about the termination of employment? If an openly homosexual or transgender employee is fired for poor job performance, this fairness ordinance would have opened up the door to claim “sexual orientation discrimination.” Kentucky is an "at will" employment state. This ordinance limits the rights of a business owner while elevating the rights of those in the LGBT community. Is that fair?
The author of the ordinance and its proponents said it would not affect religious organizations. However, SOGI laws have been used to threaten pastors operating in pastoral capacity outside a nonprofit church facility. Consider Idaho Pastors Donald and Evelyn Knapp who were prosecuted under a SOGI ordinance in 2014 for refusing to marry a homosexual couple in their for-profit wedding chapel in Couer d’Alene, Idaho. Fairness ordinances elevate the rights of those in the LGBT community above everyone’s freedom of conscience and religion.
In the November 2016 City Commission election there were three candidates that made the Fairness Ordinance the center piece of their campaign platform. Those candidates received the fewest votes in the election. On the other hand, of the candidates that received the greatest number of votes, three out of the four said they would not support a Fairness Ordinance. It seems the voters of Bowling Green voiced their opinion at the polls.
It should be made clear that one can oppose SOGI laws in principle without denigrating another individual. One can be for an individual and respect their humanity without embracing and agreeing with all their personal choices. SOGI laws make no room for such distinctions. In fact, SOGI laws are increasingly used as tools to coerce and punish opponents. Bowling Green City Commissioners should be applauded for understanding this and rejecting this inherently divisive proposal.