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Murray Residents Voice Comments on Updates to the Human Rights Ordinance

Allison Crawford

Murray City residents voiced their comments on a new Human Rights Ordinance draft that would protect people of all gender identities and sexual orientations  at last night's Town Hall meeting.

The Human Rights Commission postponed presenting the draft to the City Councilmid-November after community outcry about a lack of public input. Many oppose on grounds of religion, fear of business impacts, and skepticism of the draft’s broadness.

Gina Duncan Brown said she respects people of other sexual orientations and gender identities, but doesn’t think the government should step in.

“You can change laws all day long and it’s not gonna change people’s thoughts,” Brown said. “And when you try to do that, that’s taking away another private thing, you know. And my main goal to be here tonight is no more laws.”

Minister of First Christian Church Ruth Ragovin says she supports the ordinance because she doesn’t want anyone to experience the fear and anxiety of being bullied or rejected by their community.

“A member of my youth group committed suicide who was gay. He just felt like there was no place to go,” Ragovin said. “I came to Murray and I thought ‘I’m in this well-educated community.’ And I’m absolutely shocked that we’re even having this conversation. I would have thought that the proposed revisions would have been easily accepted.”

Among those concerned about the possible impact of the draft ordinance on small business, Barry Morris, who works as a manager, says he is afraid of such an ordinance being used to retaliate for hiring decisions.

“I don’t want the pressure on me as a business manager to feel like I have to hire somebody when and if I find out they’re a homosexual or transgender person, because if I don’t hire somebody that makes that known, then all of a sudden I become liable for a complaint to be filed against me or my company, fines paid, lawsuits, or whatever,” Morris said.

Some stated concern that the ordinance is too broad and questioned if it could be used to protect pedophiles and alcoholics from discrimination.

Others were concerned that including sexual orientation and gender identity under the protection of the Human Rights Ordinance was addressing discrimination that doesn’t exist.

Visiting professor at Murray State University Tracie Gilbert says she has been in Murray several months and although she does not know of any specific incidence of discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, she says the possibility of such discrimination occurring is enough to require protection under the Human Rights Ordinance.  

“So if nothing else, voting in favor of these ordinance changes represents preemptive activity, setting a precedent that says that all lives matter, regardless of how any one group or entity may choose to feel about those lives on a personal level,” Gilbert said.

The Human Rights Commission will discuss comments made at the Town Hall meeting during its January 12 meeting.

A proud native of Murray, Kentucky, Allison grew up roaming the forests of western Kentucky and visiting national parks across the country. She graduated in 2014 from Murray State University where she studied Environmental Sustainability, Television Production, and Spanish. She loves meeting new people, questioning everything, and dancing through the sun and the rain. She hopes to make a positive impact in this world several endeavors at a time.
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