LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The Kentucky Commission on Human Rights passed six social justice resolutions in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day during a Board of Commissioners meeting on Thursday.
The resolutions, which the group refer to as “calls for action” meant for legislators and the public, will be submitted to Gov. Steve Beshear, the Kentucky State Legislature and the Kentucky delegation to the U.S. Congress.
“There are human and civil rights challenges that need to be met in our great state,” said John J. Johnson, executive director of the commission. “We believe it is important to recognize the significance of this special holiday by addressing some of these issues while the General Assembly is in session.
Johnson believes Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a perfect opportunity to bring attention to social justice issues in Kentucky and across the country.
“All Americans have rights and opportunities that never would have been achieved had it not been for the leadership of the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and others throughout our state and national history,” Johnson said. “Dr. King came to Kentucky several times during the 1960s to help our state become the first in the south to pass a Civil Rights Act, and we are proud to submit these resolutions in honor of him.”
Below are the summaries of the resolutions passed by the group:
Resolution Supporting Efforts to Increase Voter Participation in Kentucky
Since 1960, when the Kentucky General Assembly adopted polices of nondiscrimination and formed the Kentucky commission on Human Rights, it has been an essential function and duty of the commission to encourage fair treatment for all persons. All eligible voters in the state should be afforded fair opportunities to vote regardless of personal circumstances state that may prevent attendance at the polls on Election Day. Working class persons, minorities, older persons and persons with disabilities are frequently unable, due to mitigating circumstances, to vote on election days. Therefore, the commission in this resolution asks legislators and the public to push for increasing access and opportunities for eligible voters by enacting laws or amendments that would provide, for example, options like “no-excuse” early voting, access to voting polls on weekends, fewer restrictions on absentee voting, voting-by-mail systems and same-day voter registration.
Resolution in Support of Raising the High School Dropout Age to Eighteen in Kentucky
The document states that Kentucky consistently ranks high among states in high school dropout rates, which adversely and disproportionately affect people with low income and people belonging to civil rights protected classes. Empirical evidence suggests that high school dropouts will typically be denied equal employment opportunities. The commission asks the state to raise the high school drop-out age to eighteen in order to make available to the state the full productive capacities of its members.
Resolution Reaffirming Support of Amending the Kentucky Civil Rights Act to include Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity as Protected Classes
The commission passed a resolution in 2008 asking the legislature to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act. This new resolution reaffirms the commission’s support of this. It states that Louisville, Lexington and Covington have passed Fairness Ordinances with positive results for citizens (Vicco, Kentucky also passed a Fairness Ordinance earlier this week on Jan. 14.) Sixteen other states and Washington D.C. have laws that prohibit discrimination based on the classes. The document points to a Kentucky Survey that found 83 percent of those polled agreed the two classes should be protected from discrimination. Protection from discrimination in one’s pursuit of employment, housing and accessing the goods and services of public accommodations are fundamental freedoms that should include every Kentuckian. The commission again urges legislators to add the protected classes to the Kentucky Civil Rights Act.
Resolution in Support of Effective and Reasonable Federal and State Gun Control Legislation
The resolution points to 21 mass killings involving firearms that have occurred in the U.S. since the passage of the Kentucky Civil Rights Act in 1966. It states that evidence suggests that most, if not all, of the perpetrators of these massacres were persons suffering from some form of emotion disorder or mental disease and were able to acquire firearms including semi-automatic assault weapons. The commission asks the General Assembly to urge the Kentucky members of the U.S. Congress to push for reasonable and effective federal gun control laws.
Resolution in Support of State and Local Policies, Ordinances and Laws which Affirmatively Further Fair Housing Choice by All Persons
The document points to evidence demonstrating that even though fair housing laws have been in place for over 40 years, housing discrimination