The Year in Fairness in Lexington

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BY CRAIG CAMMACK
Lexington’s 5th Annual Fairness Awards will be held Friday, June 29 2012 at the Hilton Lexington Downtown Hotel. The event is a fundraiser for Lexington Fairness’ bullying prevention programming, Project Speak Out. The following day, Saturday June 30 is the 5 Annual Lexington Pride Festival, at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza, a family-friendly event celebrating the LGBT community in Central Kentucky.

It is imperative a society honor diversity, equality, and protection of all its citizens.

“Spencer.” Lexington Pride Festival 2011. Ace Photo by Kakie Urch.

However, over the past year, we have seen there is still room for Lexington to grow. Whether it is legislative roadblocks or simply trying to do business without discrimination, we see the movement toward true equality is a slow race as we learn to live together, share commonalities, and explore our diverse differences.

Recent positive movements toward acceptance included the first NOH8 photo shoot in Kentucky. Over the past several years, acclaimed photographer, Adam Bouska, and his crew have crossed the country to forge a silent visual protest against discrimination through his photography. Placing duct tape over the mouths of his subjects, and placing a NOH8 temporary tattoo on their face, Bouska has brought nearly 25,000 individuals together in their stance against hate, intolerance, and inequality that exists in our country. In March, Bouska brought his campaign to Kentucky for the first time, setting up in Lexington and photographing hundreds of

Kentuckians.

Jessica and others, from Lexington’s NoH8 photo shoot. Photo Adam Bouska.

Additionally, JustFundKY, a statewide grant giving organization, provided its first round of funding, via the Cliff Todd Endowment, to local organizations working to eradicate discrimination against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community in Kentucky. A few of those programs receiving grants included the LGBT writing contest through the Carnegie Center for Literacy, a youth empowerment program through the GLSO, a bullying prevention program through Lexington Fairness, and an educational campaign by the Statewide Fairness Coalition. JustFundKY continues with its second round of grant giving this year.

Bully, the movie, premiered at the Kentucky Theatre on April 20, 2012, followed by a panel discussion coordinated by the Kentucky Theatre and Lexington Fairness. (The movie’s trailer was edited by a Lexington native, Lexington Catholic graduate, and UK alum, Ayser Salman.)

With these positive stories, the continued acceptance and full inclusion of the LGBT community would seem to be moving strong. However, Kentucky did gain the attention of the nation on several occasions due to prejudice and discrimination. In May, Lexington Catholic refused a young lesbian couple entrance to their own prom, citing the school’s “Catholic principles.” Hope Decker and Tiffany Wright wanted to attend the prom together, however, the school refused them admission as a couple. Instead, the girls held their own prom outside the school the same night, along with dozens of their friends who supported their right to attend the prom.

Lexington Pride Festival 2011. Ace Photo by Kakie Urch.

In April, for the first time in U.S. history, the Justice Department used the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to indict Harlan County natives David Jenkins and Ray Jenkins. The two men are accused of kidnapping and assaulting Kevin Pennington based on Pennington’s sexual orientation. The Prevention Act was adopted in 2009, but had not been used for an indictment until the case here in Kentucky. If convicted, the two men could face sentencing up to life in prison.

Additionally, the Kentucky legislature failed to pass an anti-bullying bill. This came following passionate and heartfelt testimony by those who were bullied and those who lost their children from suicide due to bullying. Additionally, Kentucky lost three young students to suicide this past year with bullying cited as a factor.

The fight for passage of a Fairness Ordinance in both Richmond and Berea also met resistance. After months of meetings, rallies, and outreach to the community, both cities voted against the passage of these ordinances. The purpose of a Fairness Ordinances is to add sexual orientation and gender identity to protected classes against discrimination in regards to public accommodations, employment, and housing.

The most widely covered Fairness case this year involved Hands on Originals and a t-shirt order for the Lexington Pride Festival. It is alleged that Hands on Originals refused to print t-shirts for festival organizers once they learned that it was a Pride festival empowering and celebrating the LGBT community. The case is currently being reviewed by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Human Rights Commission as a possible violation of Lexington’s Fairness Ordinance.

Lexington Pride Festival 2011. Ace Photo by Kakie Urch.

Each and every day, our region grows to accept the diversity that it continues to harbor. Unfortunately, the negative stories tend to get more attention than the ongoing positive work of so many. There are definitely more obstacles to be overcome by fairness and equal rights advocates, but there are so many roadblocks that have already been removed thanks to the hard work of community advocates.

A few upcoming events spotlight and put focus on those people and the actions they are taking to support fairness and equality.

The 5th Annual Lexington Fairness Awards, held Friday, June 29th at the Hilton Lexington Downtown Hotel, focuses on celebrating the leadership from those giving 110% to the LGBT community and its allies. The event is a fundraiser for Lexington Fairness’ bullying prevention programming, Project Speak Out. Info, www.fairnessawards.org.

The following day, the 5th Annual Lexington Pride Festival, held at the Robert F. Stephens Courthouse plaza, is a family-friendly event celebrating the LGBT community in Central Kentucky. Drawing attendees from all across the state, this free, day-long festival brings the community together, embracing the LGBT community and what it provides Lexington and Central Kentucky. An estimated 15,000 attendees are expected to attend this year’s festival. Info www.lexpridefest.org.

During the Fourth of July Festival and Parade, Lexington Fairness will host a booth to help answer questions, educate on bullying prevention, and be a proud, visible voice for the LGBT community during the event. Additionally, the LGBT community will have presence in the Fourth of July Parade, carrying the pride flag down Main Street. Contact volunteer@lexfair.org if you wish to participate in the parade entry.

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