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Last month Fletcher rescinded an executive order signed in 2003 by then-Gov.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.
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