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P’ville to go fair?

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By Jonna Spelbring Priester

The City of Pleasureville could become the first city in Henry County to pass a fairness ordinance.

Introduced during Monday night’s city commission meeting, the ordinance would bar discrimination in real estate rental or sale, or in employment, based on race, color or national origin; sex and/or gender, including gender identity; religion; age; and/or sexual orientation, either real or perceived.

Under the ordinance, residents who feel they have been discriminated against for any of those reasons would go to a designated fairness officer — in this case, the ordinance outlines that officer as a member of the city commission — to resolve the dispute.

If that fairness officer determines a violation “is more likely than not to have occurred,” then there will be a hearing with the entire commission, no less than 20 days from the date the officer makes his or her determination. There, “all parties shall be afforded the opportunity to be present and heard; have the assistance of an attorney to aid them in the presentation of their case; and the opportunity to question witnesses. A non-attorney shall not be allowed to represent any party.”

After that, a decision based on the merits of the arguments would be made in writing within 10 days.

Businesses or persons determined to have violated the ordinance also will be subject to a civil penalty of $250 for the first offense to $1,000 for the fifth and subsequent violations, and a revocation of business license.

Commissioner Diane Perry questioned the need for the ordinance. “How many employers do we have in Pleasureville,” she asked? “I’m not aware of anyone in this community that discriminates against anyone.”

She went on to say, however, that the issue was one the city would have to address at some point, unless the state did so first. “Is this something that the state is going to enforce? How necessary is this, at this point, for a city of this size?”

City attorney Bill Brammell said the ordinance was not a legal requirement.

“There have been a few cities that started to do this,” he said. “They are more or less making a statement as to their openness, making a social statement.”

He told Perry that some of the provisions in the ordinance already are covered by federal law — race, national origin, sex, religion and age. “This goes a little beyond that, and protects based on gender identity and sexual orientation, which goes beyond what is currently protected by the Constitution and/or state and federal law in most contexts,” he said.

“It’s a hot topic, it’s in front of the Supreme Court (of the United States). I believe one of their issues now has to do with some of this — gender identity and sexual orientation are not protected as are some of the other classes today.”

Should the city pass the ordinance, for which they had the first reading Monday, it would join five other cities in Kentucky — Covington, Frankfort, Lexington, Louisville and Vicco each have passed a fairness ordinance. Vicco is the smallest, with a 2010 census population of about 344.

Frankfort was the most recent city to pass the ordinance, in a 3-2 vote on Aug. 29.

The Pleasureville City Commission will have the second reading of the ordinance, and possibly a vote, likely on Monday, Nov. 4.