December 22, 2006

Anti-gay Christians miss message

Column by Kevin Eigelbach

Cincinati Post -- When I glanced at the headline, "Second state Baptist group ponders Wal-Mart boycott," I was happy.

At last, I thought, Christians are getting organized against the evil retail empire.

I wondered if they wanted to boycott over Wal-Mart's repressive labor policies, for its union-busting at its American stores, or its exploitation of workers at factories in China.

Did they object to Wal-Mart's encouraging its workers to apply for Medicaid and other state benefits so the company doesn't have to pay for their health care?

Were they fired up about Wal-Mart's siphoning dollars from downtown stores all over the nation?

Alas, no. The Baptists weren't mad about any of those things. They were mad because Wal-Mart expanded its diversity program in a deal with the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce.

Nothing makes Baptists madder than the thought of men having sex with men. They think it's just plain icky.

The story, which I found at www.EthicsDaily.com, said that a Southern Baptists of Texas Convention resolution called on Baptists to "reflect Biblical values with their purchasing power, letters and influence."

An earlier Missouri Baptist Convention resolution encouraged Baptists there to "exercise moral stewardship" in their shopping.

Not to be outdone, the American Family Association called for a one-day boycott of Wal-Mart on the Friday after Thanksgiving.

On that day, some protestors showed up at the Wal-Mart in Richmond, Ky. The local chapter of the Kentucky Fairness Alliance held a counter-demonstration.

Alliance members asked for help from the Florence-based Kentucky Equality Federation, but the group decided not to get involved. The Federation decided that a counter-demonstration would just magnify an event that wasn't that big of a deal, President Jordan Palmer said.

The Florence hotel owner said it wouldn't surprise him if the Southern Baptist Convention organized a boycott, as it did over Disney's pro-gay policies. "I think they're religious fanatics," he said.

Palmer, who is gay, grew up the son of a Church of God minister. A Christian all his life, he attends a Methodist church in Lexington, where he lives part-time.

"I think that people really miss the true message of Christianity and most world religions," he said. "I think they try to twist them to suit their beliefs."

The real message is about loving your neighbor. "It's not about boycotting people or condemning people, or telling people they're going to hell for the way they live their life," he said.

I agree.

In a few days, we'll celebrate the birth of Jesus, whom the Gospel writer John tells us was born not to condemn the world but to save it. Why do some people feel the need to condemn others, when Christ himself said he condemned no one?

In the case of gays and lesbians, I'm convinced it's because they are easy targets. They're different in a very tangible way. The idea of boycotting businesses because they don't discriminate against homosexuals might strike some Christians as a principled stand against an evil practice.

To the world at large, though, this kind of thing increasingly looks like a simple inability to accept something you don't understand. As a former Baptist, I wish the Southern Baptist Convention would stand up for something I could also get behind. Like the high cost of low prices.

October 26, 2006

Kentucky Equality Federation protests Representative Fischer's comments, though he still stands by them

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS - Statehouse Republican Joe Fischer is taking criticism for comments he made about gay rights and sexual orientation.

Fischer, a lawyer from Fort Thomas, said in an interview last week with The Community Recorder newspaper that it is "OK to fire someone if they're gay."

"I favor the current laws as they stand now," Fischer told the paper. "Sexual orientation shouldn't be a protected class. "Obviously, people can change their sexual orientation," he said. "Some psychologists have said so."

Fischer defended his comments during a Wednesday night campaign forum at Northern Kentucky University he participated in with his opponent, Democrat Linda Klembara of Fort Thomas.

"Under current federal and states civil rights laws it is OK," Fischer said during the half-hour forum. Sexual orientation is not a protected class. "It should not be in my opinion," he said. "The current law, I think it's fair because sexual orientation has not been a traditionally protected class like women, black, national origin and religion."

Klembara said her "faith runs deep" when asked to comment on Fischer's statements. "And my faith would never allow me to condone hatred or bigotry or discrimination toward any group of people," she said.

About 20 members of Kentucky Equality Federation, a gay rights group, protested Fischer's appearance at the forum. "As far as people being able to change their sexual orientation, it's something you are born with," said federation president Jordan Palmer. "He seems to think you can change it with the proper amount of psychology. So, my question to him is, could he change his to homosexual.

"It is unfortunate that we have people as our elected officials and representatives that aren't willing to represent all of us," Palmer said. "It is not fair, and it will never be fair, to terminate someone because of their sexual orientation."

Klembara said she didn't believe homosexuals could change their sexual orientation. "I don't ever remember consciously saying, 'I'm going to be a heterosexual,'" she said. "I think we're all born who we are."

October 25, 2006

Representative Fischer's (R) statement upsets gays

By Kevin Eigelbach, Post staff reporter

Cincinnati Post -- Gay rights groups are objecting to comments that state Rep. Joseph Fischer made to a Northern Kentucky newspaper.

According to a Community Recorder article published Thursday, the Fort Thomas Republican said that it's obvious that homosexuals can change their orientation.

In an interview with The Post Tuesday, he didn't back away from that statement.

"I've done a little research into that," he said, and referenced two Web sites, http://www.narth.org/ and http://www.couragerc.net/.

The former is the Web site of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality, whose primary goal is to give therapy to homosexuals who want to change.

The latter is the site for Courage, a Roman Catholic group that helps homosexuals live a celibate lifestyle.

Kentucky Equality Federation, a gay-rights group, disputed that homosexuals can change, citing American Psychological Association policy.

The federation challenged Fischer to change his own orientation to homosexual for 48 hours, an invitation Fischer said he didn't intend to respond to.

Fischer's Democratic challenger, Fort Thomas resident Linda Klembara, said she didn't believe homosexuals could change their sexual orientation.

"I don't ever remember consciously saying, 'I'm going to be a heterosexual,'" she said. "I think we're all born who we are."

Fischer told The Post that the Community Recorder quoted him accurately, but somewhat out of context.

He was asked if it was OK under Kentucky law to fire someone for being gay, and he said it was.

"I favor the present law as it exists," he said. "I don't favor extending special civil rights beyond the traditional protected classes."

Homosexuals have not experienced the same type of "insidious discrimination in housing and employment" as blacks and women, he said.

Usually, society defines protected classes by their inherent characteristics and not the relationships they form, he said.

"As a class, gays have equal or higher median income as heterosexuals," he said. "That may not be the case for women and minorities."

The federation's president, Jordan Palmer, said Fischer's statement that it's all right to fire employees for being gay reminded him of other things that used to be OK in the United States, such as forced segregation.

"The comments made by Representative Fischer are a slap in the face to the people who lay their lives on the line every day to protect the ideals the founders of our nation had," he said.

He also disputed Fischer's statement that gays had not suffered as much as blacks and other minorities.

During World War II, at least 15,000 gay men died in concentration camps in Germany, he said. German soldiers were also known to use gay men for target practice, aiming their weapons at the pink triangles gays had to wear on their shirts.

"I'd like Representative Fischer to provide us with a number of exactly how many people need to suffer before he will acknowledge it," Palmer said.

Fischer's statements weren't that much of a surprise to Covington resident Dean Forster, secretary for the Kentucky Fairness Alliance.

Fischer has sponsored several "anti-gay" bills, Forster said, including one to rescind city ordinances in Covington, Lexington and Louisville to protect gays from discrimination.

"I will certainly be looking to support candidates who advocate legislation that protects all people from discrimination," Forster said of the November election.

Klembara, also of Fort Thomas, said her faith would not allow her to condone prejudice against anyone. She doesn't believe employers should be able to fire people just for being gay.

"It's my belief that when the Lord told us to love one another, it was not a suggestion, it was a commandment," she said.

October 17, 2006

Kentucky's homophobic nightmare, Representative Stan Lee from Fayette County

Lexington, KY -- Representative Stan Lee (R-Fayette) couldn't wait for the legislature to reconvene in January before filing his first anti-gay bill. Representative Lee's first attack against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender community for the upcoming 2007 Legislative Session is to "prohibit public higher education institutions from providing health benefits for a domestic partner of a university or college employee."

Representative Lee has wasted no time filing paperwork to prevent the University of Louisville, University of Kentucky, and Northern Kentucky University from pursuing domestic partnership benefits (House BR 102).

Kentucky Equality Federation believes the commonwealth's educational facilities have a better understanding of what is in the best interests of their institutions, and oppose all attempts by the commonwealth to consolidate government and remove "home rule" from our local governments and educational institutions.

October 15, 2006

Gay wrestler tells of internal struggle; WWE's Kanyon became star but was closeted.

Cincinnati Post -- Professional wrestler Chris Kanyon talked about coming out as part of National Coming Out Day to students at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Ky.

The event was sponsored by Kentucky Equality Federation after an anti-gay attack at the University.

September 28, 2006

Northern Kentucky University responds to Kentucky Equality Federation concerns

After speaking to Northern Kentucky University administrators and receiving a written response from President James Votruba, Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer said he is now satisfied with the university's response to an alleged incident involving a gay student.

"Until (the university) had all the information we were reluctant to make a statement," said Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Shanley.

Kentucky Hall Residential Assistant Jeremy Phillippi reported finding an anti-gay message on his dorm door at about 12:30 a.m. Aug. 28 after returning from settling a roommate disturbance in another residential hall. Phillippi also reported the hall bulletin board decorations, including information about Phillippi's involvement with local gay/straight alliances, had been torn down.

After the incident, Phillippi asked the Kentucky Equality Federation to be involved since he was not satisfied with the university's response to the situation.

The federation then sent Votruba a letter Sept. 18 requesting the university be more "hands on" with the situation and issue a statement condemning the action with consequences for students who target others based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Votruba responded the next day with a written letter to the federation's president stating, "As with all complaints of misconduct, the university responded immediately, through its housing staff and the Department of Public Safety, to investigate the incident."

He also stated in the letter that the report was inconsistent with NKU's values and he found it important to send a message that will reaffirm the importance of civilized behavior toward all individuals and discourage behavior that threatens an individual's respect and freedom.

"When the investigation into this complaint is completed, I will personally communicate this message to the entire NKU community," Votruba said.

According to University Police Chief Harold Todd, the investigation of the case is complete and it is now considered inactive. Police have no leads or suspects regarding the incident and are hoping someone will come forward and confess or give them information about the vandalism.

Shanley said he thinks Votruba will make his statement within the next week.

After speaking with Shanley, Palmer said in a release he now has a much better understanding of the situation. "I thought Shanley was both receptive and supportive, having made himself available to Phillippi if he encountered any additional problems," he said.

Shanley, as well as Dean of Students Kent Kelso, stopped by NKU's gay-straight alliance, Common Ground, meeting Sept. 19 and spoke with the students about discrimination, tolerance and answered questions about anti-gay acts that have happened at NKU in the past.

The federation still plans to meet with Common Ground's board of officers to further discuss ways it can support the gay-straight alliance.

September 26, 2006

Kentucky Equality Federation and Northern Kentucky University Reach Agreement

Kentucky Equality Association/Federation President Jordan Palmer stated today that he is now satisfied with Northern Kentucky University’s response to an incident involving a gay student.

On August 28th, Jeremy Phillippi said he found "(this word omitted by Kentucky Equality) you fag. I hope you get AIDS" on his dorm room door and that the decorations on a bulletin board had been torn down. Phillippi is a resident advisor at the university and a member of Common Ground, Northern Kentucky University’s Gay-Straight Alliance.

Phillippi filed a complaint with the Federation to push NKU administrators to take a more aggressive stance against acts of discrimination, intimidation and hatred.

The Kentucky Equality Federation requested university management assume a more "hands on" role in the investigation and issue a public statement condemning this action with consequences of targeting students because of their sexual orientation or gender identity clearly identified.

“After speaking to Vice President of Student Affairs Mark G. Shanley, I have a much better understanding of the situation,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer. “We had a very friendly, candid conversation about the incident and will keep an open dialog. I thought Mr. Shanley was both receptive and supportive, having made himself personally available to Phillippi if he encountered any additional problems.”

Vice President Shanley and Dean of Students Kelso stopped by a Common Ground meeting this week and spoke with them about discrimination, tolerance, and a variety of other topics.

“I think Vice President Shanley making time to personally address Jeremy Phillippi’s concerns and speak directly to NKU’s Gay-Straight Alliance is very impressive,” stated Kentucky Equality Federation Awareness Coordinator Jesse Alexander.

Alexander’s comments where echoed by Common Ground’s Co-President Mike Volmer yesterday during a telephone conversation with Palmer.

“Because the reported misconduct also represents behavior inconsistent with our University’s values, it is important that we also respond in a manner that sends a clear message reaffirming the importance of civilized behavior toward all individuals and discouraging behavior which threatens the freedom and respect that every individual deserves. When the investigation into this complaint is completed, I will personally communicate this message to the entire Northern Kentucky University community,” stated Northern Kentucky University President James C. Votruba.

Phillippi partnered with another resident advisor to facilitate a two-day program focused on diversity, tolerance, and AIDS with the University Housing Department providing funding, marketing support and serving as co-sponsor.

Palmer stated Kentucky Equality Federation would continue to support its members and Gay-Straight Alliances across Kentucky.

Palmer and other management from Kentucky Equality Federation still plan to meet with members of Common Ground’s Board to discuss monetary and material ways the federation can support the Gay-Straight Alliance.

September 20, 2006

Federation criticizes response

In response to an alleged anti-gay crime on Northern Kentucky University's campus, a statewide equality federation sent a letter Sept. 18 addressed to President James Votruba regarding the situation and the university’s response to it.

At about 12:30 a.m., Aug. 28, Jeremy Phillippi said he found "Fuck you fag. I hope you get AIDS" on his dorm room door and that the decorations on a bulletin board, which is across from his room, had been torn down.

Phillippi, who is a residential assistant in Kentucky Hall, said he cleaned the writing off his door before anyone saw it and filed an incident with University Housing the next morning.

Since neither University Police nor University Housing could find evidence of the anti-gay writing or any suspects or witnesses, the case still remains under investigation.

Dissatisfied with NKU administration not releasing any public statements regarding the alleged incident, Phillippi contacted the Kentucky Equality Federation, located in Florence, Ky.

After posting Phillippi's account of the incident on its Web site, the federation sent at letter to Votruba stating it condemns NKU’s response and finds Dean Kent Kelso’s statements to The Northerner "unacceptable."

Kelso told The Northerner Sept. 12 that he "cannot confirm that any incident even occurred" and he could not act on Phillippi's reports without concrete evidence.

The letter informs Votruba, "If administration fails to take practice steps to educate its students that this type of behavior is unacceptable by Sept. 29, 2006, the Board of Directors approved Resolution 18-D43 to use all available legal and civil (including peaceful protests) remedies to bring the case to a close by making it an educational experience."

The resolution passed by the federation also directs its secretary to inform the International Lesbian and Gay Association if the university does not take action by the established date, according to the letter.

According to Vice President of Student Affairs Mark Shanley, NKU's administration received the letter late afternoon Sept. 18 and plans to respond directly to the federation.

"Students at Northern Kentucky University deserve to be able to be themselves, without having to face verbal or physical violence and be able to get an education without having to suppress their sexual orientation or gender identity," said Jordan Palmer, Kentucky Equality Federation president, in the letter to Votruba.

At the end of the letter, the federation listed recommendations to the university as ways to use Phillippi's story for an educational purpose. The federation recommended NKU "issue a statement on the importance of Common Ground, what it stands for and its objectives. Issue a statement reminding students that Northern Kentucky University is a school of diversity."

In response to the recommendations, Shanley said university administration responded “swiftly” once they heard of Phillippi's report.

"We're acting on this in an orderly manner as things are revealed to us," Shanley said.

He also said the university administration is now considering the best message to reinforce NKU's commitment to values about tolerance and teaching students to behave with civility to incidents such as this does not reoccur.

"We have taken this most seriously," he said. "We have attempted to be proactive in this situation."

The federation also recommended the university "issue a public apology for Phillippi for the university not following through on statements made and published in the Kentucky Post and/or state that staff will continue to monitor the situation and act swiftly against all acts of intolerance."

September 13, 2006

Student reports anti-gay crime

In Jeremy Phillippi's first few weeks as a residential assistant, he's held floor meetings, planned events, handled roommate conflicts and dealt with vandalism – just as he learned during training. What he didn’t learn, however, was what to do when he became the center of the conflict.

At around 12:30 a.m., Aug. 28, Phillippi reported that while he was settling a conflict in Commonwealth Hall, someone vandalized his door and his bulletin board outside his door, which he is responsible for decorating each month as an RA.

Phillippi, who is openly gay, told University Housing and University Police that someone wrote with a black permanent marker, "Fuck you fag. I hope you get AIDS," on the door to his room and tore down the decorations on the bulletin board that featured back-to-school and "Get to know your RA" information about Phillippi, which listed his involvement with Common Ground and other gay/straight alliances in the area.

"It's been hard to stay with a professional line and stay positive," said Phillippi, who just started his second year at Northern Kentucky University and his first semester as an RA in Kentucky Hall's first floor A wing.

Phillippi filed an incident report with the University Police Aug. 29, but had already cleaned the writing off of his door. Police were unable to take any evidence of the writing, but took a dry-erase board that had been scribbled on, according to Phillippi.

Now, weeks later, Phillippi said he's still dealing with his feelings of the incident and the how University Housing and NKU handled it.

"I feel like I've been victimized three times," he said, since Phillippi felt the both the administration and University Housing didn't respond appropriately.

Dissatisfied with the response, Phillippi contacted Kentucky Equality Federation, which advocates equal rights and is located in Florence, Ky. The federation posted an alert on its Web site asking visitors to sign an e-mail directed "to Northern Kentucky University demanding campus management assume a more 'hands on' role in the investigation of a hate crime, bullying and vandalism incident directed to a member of Common Ground."

The e-mail asks the university to issue a public statement condemning the incident and include consequences for people who target students because of their sexual orientation.

"It's hard to say whether the incident was motivated by hate or not," said University Housing Director Matt Brown. "I consider it to be an act of intolerance."

Brown said the incident is the first time an anti-gay act of vandalism toward an openly gay student has happened at NKU.

University Housing conducted an investigation separate from University Police and found no evidence supporting Phillippi's testimony, since the writing was cleaned shortly after its inscription.

Dean of Students Kent Kelso met with Phillippi regarding the incident and said the university has taken no action because it "cannot confirm that any incident even occurred."

Kelso said University Police has not found evidence of vandalism or the alleged statement written on the door.

He said it's unfortunate if Phillippi cleaned the writing off before police arrived because now he has no evidence to support his story.

"I don't think its appropriate to do anything, especially if we have no evidence," Kelso said.

Kelso remained firm that the university will take no action as a result of the incident.

"It sounds like Jeremy wants us to do something based on his word alone,” Kelso said. “We just don’t do that."

July 20, 2006

BOONE COUNTY HIGH SCHOOL IN NORTHERN KENTUCKY APPROVES GAY-STRAIGHT ALLIANCE AFTER MORE THAN THREE MONTHS OF DELAYS

Students at Boone County High School in Northern Kentucky celebrated victory after members of the Boone County High School Site-Based Council unanimously approved the formation of an in-school Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) last night.

The Boone County High School was under direct threat of being sued by the Kentucky Equality Association for delaying the formation of the club for over 3 months.

The victory however belongs to Nick Herweck, a student at Boone County High School, and a senior member of the Kentucky Equality Association.

Herweck had an unprecedented amount of support from organizations and groups across two states, including the AIDS Volunteers of Cincinnati, Eastern Kentucky University’s Pride Alliance, Northern Kentucky University’s Common Ground, Cincinnati’s Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, a representative from Social Services, various community members, and the Kentucky Fairness Alliance filled the commons area of the school to support the formation of the Boone County High School Gay-Straight Alliance.

"It was both remarkable and wonderful to see various groups and organizations from two states in the same room to support such a wonderful cause; to make sure our gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual, and questioning teenagers have a school club were they are accepted, and can talk freely in a non-threatening environment," stated Jordan Palmer, President of the Kentucky Equality Association. "Nick Herweck sets a positive example for all teenagers in being responsible and active environmentally, socially, academically, and politically; Nick is remarkable in every measurable sense of the word."

June 1, 2006

Kentucky School Accused Of Dragging Feet On Gay Club

A Kentucky LGBT civil rights group is urging a Florence high school to stop delaying the approval of a Gay-Straight Alliance.

The Kentucky Equality Association said Thursday that LGBT students at Boone County High School are the victims of discrimination. The organization also said that the school's action may be illegal under the Kentucky Education Reform Act.

In a letter to the school the Association reminded it that the Federal Equal Access Act requires schools to treat GSAs as they would any other school group.

Included in the letter was an information packet about GSAs entitled Just the Facts that has been endorsed by a number of professional groups including the American Association of School Administrators, the American Federation of Teachers and the American Psychological Association.

While the school has delayed making a decision on whether it will allow a GSA to organize it has approved 16 other clubs including one dedicated to the animated cartoon, Anime.

A GSA provides a place for students to meet, support each other, talk about issues related to sexual orientation, and work to end homophobia. Many GSAs function as a support group and provide safety and confidentiality to students who are struggling with their identity as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

GSAs are in schools across the country. In areas where school boards have attempted to block them Federal courts have repeatedly ruled in favor of the students. Recent cases were in Utah, California and Indiana.

In 2004 a Federal judge ruled in favor of students that wanted to organize a GSA in another Kentucky community. As part of the settlement to end the case the Boyd County school district agreed to establish required anti-harassment training for all students.

Last March a judge ruled that students opposed to homosexuality could not opt out of the course.

Boone County High School has not replied to the most recent allegations from the Kentucky Equality Association.

May 6, 2006

Gay Rights Battle Goes To Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Gov. Ernie Fletcher will be met by LGBT civil rights protestors when he hosts the annual Kentucky Derby Breakfast.

The Kentucky Equality Association will lead the silent protest march outside the May 6th event.

Fletcher angered the Association by not vetoing funding to the University of the Cumberlands, a Baptist school that expelled a student it learned was gay, and when Fletcher removed protections for LGBT civil servants from an Executive Order signed by his predecessor.

The Kentucky Fairness Alliance has filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the $11 million grant to the university and earlier this week Democratic lawmakers announced their support.

Both the Equality Association and the Fairness Alliance believe the grant violates the separation of church and state provision in the state constitution.

Jason Johnson, 20, was expelled April 6 after posting his sexual orientation on a Web site. The dean's list student received all Fs on his transcript when he was expelled. (story) Following public outrage the university agreed to allow Johnson to send in work to finish his courses and receive final grades. But he remains barred from the campus.'

Last month Fletcher rescinded an executive order signed in 2003 by then-Gov. Paul Patton that provided protections for LGBT state workers and replaced it with a new one excluding the gay protections.

Fletcher signed the new order at a "Diversity Day" event attended by hundreds of children. Asked by a reporter about the omission Fletcher said he was just following federal non-bias standards, which do not include sexuality.

Derby Breakfast guests include protesters

A group of 20 protesters displaying placards stood quietly on the periphery of the Governors Derby Breakfast this morning to register their criticism of Gov. Ernie Fletcher's decision not to veto $11 million for a pharmacy school and scholarships at the Baptist-affiliated University of the Cumberlands.

Jordan Palmer of Covington, president of the Kentucky Equality Association, said the protesters were challenging Fletcher's refusal to veto the appropriation because the university had kicked out Jason Johnson, a student from Lexington, last month for disclosing on a website that he was gay.

They discriminated against homosexuals, Palmer said of the dismissal by the private Williamsburg college.

Palmer said numerous people came by to express their support for the protest, which was at the southeast corner of Capitol Avenue and Todd Street, on the edge of the Capitol grounds. Only a very few voiced any hostility, he said, and there were no incidents.

After a 45-minute hand-shaking tour of the breakfast, Fletcher told reporters he was not bothered that the protesters were on hand.

We welcome everyone to express their First Amendment rights, Fletcher said. I would hope they'd feel welcome to come in and have a good breakfast and feel more amicable.

Palmer, a registered Republican who voted for Fletcher, said he would not accept the invitation because I don't want to have breakfast and be around the governor.

Palmer said he thinks the governor violated the state constitution because he did not veto the appropriation from coal severance money for the proposed pharmacy building and scholarships for its students.

Fletcher's administration is asking Franklin Circuit Court to determine whether the appropriation violates the state Constitutions prohibition against giving state money to religious schools. An estimated 15,000 people attended the breakfast and strolled the Capitol grounds to hear entertainment groups and visit exhibits.

Protest outside Governor's Derby breakfast

Nearly 20 gay-rights activists stood Saturday morning near the state Capitol during the Governor's Derby breakfast to protest Gov. Ernie Fletchers decision not to veto $11 million in funding for a planned pharmacy program at the University of the Cumberlands.

The private Baptist school in Williamsburg kicked out a student for being gay.

Members of the Kentucky Equality Association, which was formed in November, wore stickers saying, Second Class Citizen, and others held signs saying, "God Made Me Gay," and "Don't Fund Hate."

Fletcher said he wasn't aware of the protest but said he welcomed them. I wish they'd come in and have a little breakfast. Maybe they'd feel a little more amicable, he said.

Jordan Palmer, association president, said no thanks.

I don't want to go in and have breakfast. I don't want to be around the governor, said Palmer, a Republican hotel owner from Covington.

Palmer said he voted for Fletcher and supported him until he withdrew job protections for gay and lesbian state workers and decided not to veto the funding for the University of the Cumberlands.

Gay Protest Goes To The Nags

Gay rights advocates dogged Gov. Ernie Fletcher at the state's biggest nag race - the Kentucky Derby. About 20 demonstrators were on hand Saturday morning as Fletcher hosted the Governors Derby Breakfast.

Fletcher angered the Kentucky Equality Association by not vetoing $ 11 million in funding to the University of the Cumberlands, a Baptist school that expelled a student it learned was gay, and when Fletcher removed protections for LGBT civil servants from an Executive Order signed by his predecessor.

As the group demonstrated in front of the Capitol a number of people stopped to express their support. An estimated 15,000 people attended the breakfast on the Capitol grounds.

Fletcher told reporters he was not concerned about the demonstration. We welcome everyone to express their First Amendment rights, Fletcher said. I would hope theyd feel welcome to come in and have a good breakfast and feel more amicable.

But Equality Association president Jordan Palmer was in no mood for sharing ham, eggs and biscuits with the governor. "I dont want to have breakfast and be around the governor, said Palmer, a registered Republican who voted for Fletcher.

Last month Fletcher rescinded an executive order signed in 2003 by then-Gov. Paul Patton that provided protections for LGBT state workers and replaced it with a new one excluding the gay protections.

Fletcher signed the new order at a "Diversity Day" event attended by hundreds of children. Asked by a reporter about the omission Fletcher said he was just following federal non-bias standards, which do not include sexuality.

April 16, 2006

Advocacy group to Gov. Fletcher: Veto funding to University of the Cumberlands

The Kentucky Equality Organization has joined the Kentucky Fairness Alliance in calling on Governor Ernie Fletcher to veto the $11 million dollars currently allocated to the University of the Cumberlands. The college recently expelled a student for revealing his sexual orientation on the social networking web site myspace.com.

According to the Kentucky Constitution, sending funds to this school could be illegal. Section 189 of Kentucky's Constitution states: "No portion of any fund or tax now existing, or that may hereafter be raised or levied for educational purposes, shall be appropriated to, or used by, or in aid of, any church, sectarian or denominational school."

The University of the Cumberlands is not a public college; it is a private college associated with the Southern Baptist Convention and is clearly not open to all citizens of the commonwealth.

Association founder and President Jordan Palmer stated that he had been very supportive of the governor in the past, but failure to veto funding for the university might change that. “I don’t see how the governor could possibly not veto the funding for the university in the budget, approving it would be unconstitutional,” Palmer said. “I realize that the governor is a Baptist Christian, and I personally have no objection to funding schools that are spiritual as long as the school follows Biblical teachings, and those teachings tell us not to judge others, and to follow “The Greatest Commandment” as stated in Mark 12:28 – 12:34,” stated Palmer. “The Greatest Commandment tells us to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. It also says to love your neighbor as yourself.”

Palmer, whose father is a minister, also attended a Methodist High School. He founded the Kentucky Equality Association in November 2005. The Kentucky Equality Association currently has more than 1,300 members and supporters throughout the commonwealth.
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