June 18, 2011

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.

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