Fairness Ordinance

Historical Marker #2595 commemorates the historic passage of the first county-wide Fairness Ordinance in Kentucky, by the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government (LFUCG) on July 9, 1999.

In January 1999 the city of Louisville had passed an ordinance protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ) people from employment discrimination. However, the ordinance only applied to the Louisville Metro area and did not include protections from housing and public accommodation discrimination.

The LFUCG ordinance extended protections to include employment, housing, and public accommodations; it also went into effect immediately upon its adoption. The ordinance defined gender identity to include protections for Trans folks. It also provided exemptions for religious organizations, allowed for dress codes in public and private businesses, and allowed gender-specific restrooms and showers. The ordinance also exempted some private clubs and landlords who rent one unit in a building where they or their relatives live. These carve outs made the passage of the Ordinance more likely, but they remain contested.

Lexington Fairness and the Lexington Human Rights Commission organized support for the Fairness Ordinance over many years. Jeff Jones, the cochair of Lexington Fairness in 1999, told author Carolyn Gallaher that the group worked quietly so that opponents would not be tipped off on their intentions. They also built a coalition of supporters throughout Lexington and were able to persuade the Human Rights Commission to endorse the Ordinance and to pressure the Council to take up the vote toward the end of the Council’s summer session in 1999.

LFUCG Council placed the Ordinance on their docket quickly once it was introduced. They heard hours of public testimony regarding the ordinance, with supporters and opponents speaking out. Council members received phone calls at their homes who hurled insults. Council members who served at the time recalled having their faith called into question and having their children harassed in their neighborhoods. Still, as Mayor Linda Gorton said at the marker dedication (Gorton was a councilwoman in 1999), the anguish she heard in public testimony from LGBT Lexingtonians told her the ordinance was necessary and right. The Ordinance was adopted on a 12-3 vote.

The LFUCG Fairness Ordinance became a model for cities and counties across the Commonwealth. As of June 2020, there is not a statewide Fairness Ordinance in Kentucky—instead, local government can choose to enact Fairness Ordinances under their jurisdiction. There are 20 such ordinances as of June 2020.

The marker reads:

Fairness Ordinance

On July 8, 1999, Fayette County
outlawed discrimination based
on sexual orientation or gender
identity in housing, employment,
and public accommodations. This
groundbreaking, county-wide
ordinance was the first in Kentucky
to provide these protections.
It has become a model
for others in the Commonwealth.

Sponsored by JustFund Education Project, Inc. JustFundKY.org

This marker was dedicated on July 1, 2019.