UNION, Ky. — In a 3-1 vote elected officials in Union, Ky. voted down a fairness ordinance that would’ve prevented discrimination against LGBTQ people.
The ordinance would have prohibited discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity for housing, employment and public accommodation like restaurants and retail. It would’ve also set up a process where residents could file a complaint with the city if discrimination occurred.
“Unfortunately we lost the vote there last night,” said Chris Hartman, executive director of the Fairness Campaign. “That gives Union the dubious distinction of becoming the first northern Kentucky community to vote against LGBTQ rights, to vote against a fairness ordinance.”
Nearly two dozen cities across the state of Kentucky have passed their own fairness ordinances, including nine in Northern Kentucky. Covington was the first local city to do so back in 2003. Other cities including Newport, Dayton and Fort Thomas have followed suit.
“Unfortunately Union will be left behind,” said Hartman.
Union resident Darnell Johnson said he was disappointed the ordinance failed.
Johnson, who has lived in Union since 2020, worked with the Fairness Campaign in the 90s.
“I grew up in Kentucky as a gay, Black male,” he said. “As an adult, I moved throughout the world and live in a world that is more affirming and accepting … but, I do understand how youth coming up in communities that are small like Union still fear and still have some of the issues that I had to go through 20 years ago.”
Johnson stated that Union is a welcoming place, and he believes the failed vote still leaves room for hope.
“Some of the commissioners were affirming around equal rights,” he said. “If we could help them understand how this goes a step further, I think if this were to come up again, we may see a different outcome.”
Mayor Larry Solomon, who voted against the ordinance, said he does believe in equality. Solomon said he believes a resolution passed in 2020 by the city commission already does enough.
“The city has given its word that it believes in treating all people fairly and equally through the 2020 Fairness Resolution, and one’s word is their bond. I believe that this is currently good enough,” he said.
The 2020 resolution, which is not legally binding, states that city staff “should use available tools to work to eliminate racial and social disparities … and to promote racial and social equity in the delivery of city services.” Solomon also said he led efforts to launch a public relations campaign in 2021 informing residents that the city believes in fairness.
Hartman, in part, blamed the Boone County Republican Party for the vote’s failure.
“The Boone County Republican Party told the members of the Union city commission they would run a slate of candidates against them if they approved the fairness ordinance,” he said.
The party declined to comment on Tuesday. The party did pass a resolution last month opposing the fairness ordinance.
In part, the resolution stated:
“The proposed ordinance introduces two, new protected classifications, sexual orientation, and gender identity. In creating these two, new protected classifications, the overreaching ordinance seeks to mandate the acceptance of radical ideology that is anti-life, immoral, and completely ignores scientific and biological reality… The Boone County Republican Party calls upon the Commissioners and Mayor of the City of Union to vote against this proposed ordinance as an unnecessary solution in search of a problem, and get back to work protecting the God-given rights of its citizens.”
Union Commissioner Brian Garner, who sponsored the ordinance and was the sole yes vote, declined to comment on the vote.