The Paducah City Commission approved an amendment Tuesday night revising the city’s ‘fairness ordinance’ to protect religious liberty.
The amendment includes protecting “the right to act in a manner motivated by a sincerely held religious belief.” The council voted 4-1 to approve the amendment to an ordinance passed last year that had added protections to the local Human Rights Ordinance for sexual orientation, gender identity and age. The meeting drew a large crowd and several members of the public commented.
Resident Mary Burn says she doesn’t believe Paducah needs to make a point that people can discriminate on the basis of religion.“Passing the amendment tonight seems to be purely political, a slap in the face for many Paducahns and a complete wedge issue that’s not needed," she said.
Mayor Brandi Harless says the goal is to find a balance between religious freedom and civil rights protections. She says her amendment is consistent with state law and is not a value decision on her part.“If we were to wake up one day and be in a Kentucky that doesn’t think we need to have a state statute like that, then that means that our local ordinance would change and it would reflect that," she said.
Commissioner Richard Abraham voted no. He says Harless’ amendment gives too much authority to the government to decide what an individual deems is a ‘sincerely held belief.’ He had proposed a similar amendment, but had it withdrawn prior to the meeting.
This is the amendment’s second reading, making it official.