June 18, 2011

Hazard pool employee suspended, policies rewritten after expulsion of gay men

As protesters spoke out on Saturday against the expulsion of two gay men with intellectual and developmental disabilities from a city-owned pool in Hazard, the city took several steps to try to remedy the situation.

Kim Haynes, the city employee who cited the Bible while telling the men and their caregiver to leave the Hazard Pavilion on June 10, will be suspended without pay for five days because of his "failure to be respectful to the public," "unsatisfactory job performance" and "his use of inappropriate language" about pool policies, the city said in a press release.

The release also states the city plans to:

  • Issue a letter of apology to the staff of Mending Hearts Inc., the company that provides care for the two men.
  • Install a new sign that makes clear that the Hazard Pavilion is "available for use without regard to race, ethnicity, color, creed, national origin, age, sexual orientation or physical/mental disability as required by federal and state law."
  • Modify its rules-for-conduct sign to include its previously unwritten prohibition against "excessive public displays of affection," and
  • Provide additional training to the pavilion staff regarding non-discrimination laws and regulations.

Jordan Palmer, president and co-founder of the Kentucky Equality Federation, which organized the protest outside the Hazard Pavilion, said those actions are "a step in the right direction," but suspending Haynes is "still not sufficient for us."

"He's got to be moved to another area of government," Palmer said. The equality federation is an advocacy group for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex.

Saturday, in addition to a press statement, the city also released an 18-page report on the investigation into the incident at the pool.

Conducted by Hollon & Collins law offices, the report included interviews with several people, including Laura Quillen, the Mending Hearts caregiver who had accompanied the men to the pool, but not the men themselves. One of the men is under state guardianship, and a state official told the law firm that the state was opposed to them interviewing him.

The report cites conflicting reports about the events at the pool and what prompted the men to be kicked out. Haynes said he saw the men, who he was unaware were disabled, "hugging" "getting friendly" and "fondling" each other in the pool and that he saw the men "fondling" outside the pool but that they were not touching each other's private parts.

According to the report, Haynes said he approached the men "in a humble way and asked them to leave."

Haynes said a woman nearby — who later was identified as Quillen — jumped up and asked why, saying "You can't do that, that's discriminatory."

He said he asked the men to leave because a woman with a child left because of the behavior and a man had complained that the men were kissing in the pool.

A lifeguard and a patron of the pool both said they saw the men hug and kiss each other on the lips while in the pool. Quillen, however, said that she did not see the men hug, kiss or engage in any other display of affection in the pool.

She said that when getting a refund for pool admission, Haynes said he was sorry to have to ask them to leave "but we can't tolerate what was going on."

She said she replied that that was fine, but it was discrimination.

To that, she said Haynes replied, "You need to read the Bible more often, we don't tolerate that down here."

News of the incident made national headlines. In its news release the city said that the manager of the recreational facility, Charlotte Pearlman, has been reprimanded for using "insulting and obscene language" while declining to comment to CNN. The city said it "extends its apologies to CNN and to the staff of Anderson Cooper 360."

Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/06/18/1780622/hazard-pool-employee-suspended.html#ixzz1Pwe1xwWP

2 punished after disabled gays told to leave pool

By: The Associated Press | The Associated Press | 06/18/11 8:37 PM

An employee at a public swimming pool in eastern Kentucky was suspended for a week without pay after telling two disabled gay men to leave, city of Hazard officials said Saturday.

The suspended city employee Kim Haynes told investigators that the two men were engaged in an excessive display of affection June 10, and that he would have told any other couple to leave had he seen similar behavior. Haynes, however, also acknowledged he said "We don't tolerate that kind of activity around here" and cited the Bible in an argument with Laura Quillen, a member of the social service group Mending Hearts, which was overseeing the group.

Quillen told investigators the men did nothing inappropriate.

According to a report released by city attorney Paul R. Collins, summing up the conflicting accounts, at least one witness saw the men "standing 'man to man' or 'belly to belly' in the pool . splashing each other with water and pushing each other under the water." The witness "also said he observed them hug each other on at least one occasion" and give each other a kiss, the report said.

Pearlman and Haynes were not at work on Saturday and could not be reached by the newspaper for comment by telephone.

Meanwhile, dozens of people rallied at the pool Saturday in support of the gay men.

"It's time that people stood up for people. It's just the right thing to do," Marsha Morgan from Leslie County told WYMT-TV.

Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation, said the men were discriminated against.

"There was not kissing, and there was nothing of that sort. One of them sat on the other's knee and that was it," said Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation.

The manager of the Hazard Pavilion also was reprimanded for unbecoming conduct, The Courier-Journal reported. Charlotte Pearlman used inappropriate and obscene language when declining comment to a television news crew, the city said.

The city also said new anti-discrimination signs will be posted at the pool, as well as signs warning against excessive public displays of affection.

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/news/2011/06/2-punished-after-disabled-gays-told-leave-pool#ixzz1PwlmvWSN

Protestors Rally at Hazard Pool

The city of Hazard has now taken action against an employee who kicked two mentally challenged gay men out of a pool for acting inappropriately. About 100 people showed up Saturday from across Kentucky outside the Hazard Pavilion Pool to protest.

"I was more embarrassed that these issues are still prevalent in our region," says Pastor Edith Baker.

It's now been one week since a worker kicked out the two men, after one sat on the other's knee. The group "Mending Hearts" who was supervising the men, complained the cited the Bible and said that "gay people weren't allowed to swim there."

"It's important to let people know this happens everyday, and they can't do that," says Kevin Holmes.

Police officers kept watch on the protest to make sure things remained calm. While other protestors showed up to defend the pool worker. "I really don't think it was an issue of homosexuality, because I don't think these two men were asked to do anything that heterosexual couples wouldn't be asked to do. I mean this is a family facility, people bring their babies here," says Kristi Dixon.

The city attorney said the worker, Kim Haynes, will be suspended without pay for five days because his inappropriate language could imply the city enforces rules based on religion. But the president of the Kentucky Equality Federation who organized the rally, says that's not enough. "If he not issue an official apology, and is reassigned to another area of government, then we will sue the city of Hazard," says Jordan Palmer.

City officials say they will be posting signs at the pool stating the facility is open to all types of people, but that excessive public displays of affection will not be tolerated.

Lex18 - Lexington News Link:  http://www.lex18.com/news/protestors-rally-at-hazard-pool

Lex18 - Lexington Video Link: http://www.lex18.com/videoplayer/?video_id=16483&categories=233

Rally held for gay men allegedly kicked out of pool

On Saturday, dozens of people protested the actions of a city employee, who allegedly removed two gay men with disabilities from a facility run by the city of Hazard.

In a report released by the city, a lifeguard at the Pavilion alleges the men were repeatedly hugging and kissing. Facility officials say this is inappropriate for both heterosexual and homosexual couples.

However, the Kentucky Equality Federation says the men were only sitting on each other's laps, and they were discriminated against.

Dozens from across the Commonwealth came to support the two gay men, who were allegedly thrown out of the Hazard Pavilion.

"It's time that people stood up for people. It's just the right thing to do." said Marsha Morgan from Leslie County.

"There was not kissing, and there was nothing of that sort. One of them sat on the other's knee and that was it," said Jordan Palmer, president of the Kentucky Equality Federation.

Palmer says the Pavilion worker, Kim Haynes, used the Bible to justify kicking the men out.

"Religion has no place in government, let alone a public facility. He did not have the right to do that to those people," said Palmer.

"I don't think it's a gay rights issue because a heterosexual couple would have been treated the same," said Kristi Dixon, who supports Haynes.

Dixon says she exercises at the Pavilion and knows Haynes, who she calls a meek, good man.

"If their behavior was extreme enough for Kim to say something to them, then it must have been really inappropriate," said Dixon.

The Hazard City Attorney says it was inappropriate for Haynes to argue with a patron and to use religious beliefs as grounds to kick out the couple.

The city did release a statement saying that the employee is suspended without pay for five days, but Palmer says that's not enough.

"If he does not issue an apology and is not reassigned into a different area of government, than we will sue the city of Hazard," said Palmer.

"This is a family facility. They bring their families here. They don't want to watch men and women have sex. They don't want to watch men and men. They don't want to watch women and women," said Dixon.

The city says the Pavilion is open to anyone who wants to join, and new signs will be posted reinforcing that commitment.

June 14, 2011

Gay advocacy group threatens public protest over men's eviction from Hazard pool

The Kentucky Equality Federation says it is planning a public protest because two gay men with intellectual and developmental disabilities were kicked out of a recreational center run by the city of Hazard on Friday.

The federation, which advocates for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or intersex, says the two were discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

The city's attorney, however, said the facility does not discriminate, and "there is a dispute as to the facts of what transpired."

The men, who were not identified, had been swimming at the Hazard Pavilion with a group from Mending Hearts Inc., which provides care to people with mental retardation and developmental disabilities.

"The Pavilion staff immediately entered the pool area and asked my clients and their staff to leave the Pavilion," Shirlyn Perkins, executive director of Mending Hearts, said in a news release issued Monday by the Kentucky Equality Federation. She said her staff "were informed that 'gay people' weren't allowed to swim there."

Perkins said Mending Hearts staff members argued that their clients were being discriminated against, but the Pavilion staff member "stated that what he was doing was in the Bible and he could do it."

"My clients, whom already feel ridiculed and different, left the city-owned facility crying and embarrassed for trying to participate in 'normal' activities that everyday 'normal' people do," Perkins said.

Ollie Adams, co-owner of Mending Hearts, said a staff member told her that the Pavilion employee told the group to leave after one of the men sat on the other's knee and put his arm around him while sitting outside the pool. "There was no kissing and hugging," Adams said.

Paul Collins, the city's attorney, said that he is still investigating, but based on initial information, "there seems to be a wide disparity between the versions of the events."

Collins said a lifeguard said he saw the two men repeatedly hugging and kissing in a corner of the pool.

"The staff at the Pavilion report to me that they do on some regular basis caution or warn individuals about excessive public displays of affection and that these warnings are given regardless of sexual orientation," Collins said.

City Manager Carlos Combs said that while Pavilion staffers try to stop public displays of affection, the city's policy is that "we don't discriminate against anyone."

Will Taylor, the Equality Federation's assistant regional director for Southern Kentucky, said he is planning a protest of city hall and the Pavilion unless "an official apology" is issued and "immediate corrective action" is taken.

"As a public community service, the Pavilion has a responsibility to provide equal treatment to all members of their facility and to properly educate their staff accordingly," Julia Oiler Spiegel, a representative of the federation, said in the news release.

Read more: http://www.kentucky.com/2011/06/14/1774098/gay-advocacy-group-threatens-public.html#ixzz1PvkzlQ9m

Bible cited as reason for kicking gay men out of public pool

Activists in Kentucky are planning a peaceful response after two gay men with developmental and intellectual disabilities were kicked out of a public pool.

A maintenance technician reportedly cited the Bible while telling the two men they couldn't swim at The Pavilion, a government-funded recreational facility in Hazard, Kentucky.

"We own this place and can tell you to leave if we want to," the couple was told, according to the Kentucky Equality Federation.

"The Pavilion staff immediately entered the pool area and asked my clients and their staff to leave the Pavilion," Mending Hearts Executive Director Shirlyn Perkins recalled. "My staff asked The Pavilion staff why they were being asked to leave, and they were informed that 'gay people' weren't allowed to swim there."

"My staff told this man that what he was trying to do was discrimination. The man stated that what he was doing was in the Bible and he could do it. My staff continued to argue with this man, but was ultimately forced to leave. My clients, whom already feel ridiculed and different, left the city owned facility crying and embarrassed for trying to participate in 'normal' activities that everyday 'normal' people do," she added.

"This is completely outrageous, The Pavilion is owned by the City of Hazard and paid for by our tax dollars," Kentucky Equality Federation President Jordan Palmer said. "Rest assured Kentucky Equality Federation will not tolerate discrimination in any form and our Southern Kentucky volunteer management, as well as our Discrimination, Hate Crimes and School Bullying Committee have planned a peaceful response."

Will Taylor, the Kentucky Equality Federation's Assistant Regional Director for Southern Kentucky, explained that the city could stop planned protests at City Hall and The Pavilion by simply issuing an apology.

"In addition, should an apology and corrective action not be forthcoming, we call on Governor Beshear to rescind funding to The Pavilion and the City of Hazard in the spirit of his executive order prohibiting discrimination of LGBTI people in Kentucky government," he said.

Story Link:  http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2011/06/14/bible-cited-as-reason-for-kicking-gay-men-out-of-public-pool/