Press

Covington, Kentucky Expands Human Rights Ordinance; NGLTF Ohio Valley Power Summit Wraps Up

Date: 
April 30, 2003

April 29, 2003, Covington, KY - "In yet another victory for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) community, Covington, Kentucky city commissioners last night voted unanimously (5-0) to expand their existing human rights ordinance by adding sexual orientation and gender identity to the already protected classes of the ordinance," said Lorri L. Jean, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) Executive Director. "The broad coalition of activists led by the Kentucky Fairness Alliance (KFA) are to be commended for their hard work in ensuring fair and equal treatment for all Covington residents - especially in the face of strong opposition from a Cincinnati anti-GLBT group and its Kentucky offshoot."

Last night's vote expands the city's human rights ordinance to include disability, place of birth, and marital, parental and familial status in addition to sexual orientation and gender identity, to the existing classes of age, sex, race, color, religion, ancestry and national origin and adds employment and public accommodations to existing housing protections.

"This is the first campaign where KFA put together a large field campaign based on the skills learned at NGLTF trainings such as the Power Summit, Creating Change and the real world training received on the ground in Miami last September during the Save Dade campaign," said Kentucky Fairness Alliance Central and Eastern Kentucky organizer Matt Nicholson. "The coalition building KFA did with various communities, including the NAACP, the disabilities community and various faith-based communities is unprecedented -- and the quality of life not just for GLBT people, but for all historically oppressed Kentuckians, is that much better due to this fair-minded vote by the Covington city commissioners."

The Covington vote comes just days after NGLTF wrapped its Ohio Valley Power Summit (held in Covington, KY) in which 120 GLBT community leaders and allies from a wide geographic area (including: Cincinnati, OH; Cleveland Heights, OH; Columbus, OH; Dayton, OH; Overland, OH; Covington, KY, Louisville, KY; Lexington, KY; Indianapolis, IN; Detroit, MI; Topeka, KS; Houston, TX; and from cities as far away as Arizona) came together for a weekend of strategic and focused training on how to prepare for ballot measure and legislative campaigns and how to turn out a large, diverse and progressive base of anti-discrimination voters - both GLBT and straight.

"The Task Force has an ongoing relationship with the Kentucky Fairness Alliance, from our training in Louisville, KT in 2000 right through this weekend's Power Summit," said NGLTF Director of Organizing and Training Dave Fleischer. "Given last year's one million dollar Arcus Foundation Grant and the recent anonymous gift of $1.1 million in support of our field work, we're now in a position to look at expanding our field organizing commitment to fit the needs of GLBT communities not only in the Ohio Valley, but across the country as well."

At the Ohio Valley Power Summit, NGLTF donated a total of $15,000 to two local groups in attendance, Heights Families for Equality and Citizens to Restore Fairness. That money is just part of the $150,000 that NGLTF will grant to organizations waging critical ballot measure campaigns this year and equals the $150,000 given last year. This fall, NGLTF will also announce the grantees of $500,000 in additional awards to be given over the next two years as part of its new Community Impact Fund.

NGLTF currently has field organizers on the ground in Cleveland Heights, Ohio assisting Heights Families for Equality secure petition signatures for a non-binding registry of same-sex and opposite-sex domestic partners that is expected to appear on the November 2003 ballot.

"Along with revving up the petition gathering in Cleveland Heights, NGLTF will continue to deploy field organizers on site at strategic times to provide ongoing training, technical support and practical help at key moments throughout this campaign, right through November," Fleischer said. "The Task Force very strategically chose the Ohio Valley as the site of this Power Summit in order to work with folks throughout the area where pro and anti-GLBT issues are immediately on the agenda. Our relevance as a national organization is that it is part of our mission to partner with state and local GLBT and ally groups to help them advance an agenda of equality in their hometowns."

In a 62 to 38 percent loss in 1993, Cincinnati became the only city in the country with a provision in its city charter (Article XII) banning civil rights protections based on sexual orientation and has continued to be dominated by anti-GLBT organizations like Citizens for Community Values (CCV), headed up by Phil Burress. However, recent victories in Cincinnati like the February 2003 hate crimes ordinance and the success of three pro-GLBT Supreme Court cases despite the "friend of the court" briefs filed by CCV signal a turn toward fair-mindedness in Cincinnati that is being echoed all over the country. Even in virulently anti-GLBT preacher Fred Phelps hometown of Topeka, Kansas, where as many as five daily anti-GLBT protests have taken place for ten years, the Topeka City Council came within one vote of passing a GLBT-inclusive non-discrimination law last year.

"The world has changed in the last ten years and a measure of the Task Force's success, as well as the maturity of the movement fighting for fair and equal treatment, is that we've made people like Phil Burress and Fred Phelps irrelevant," Jean said. "As the dishonesty and outright vitriol that our opposition has to offer has become more and more apparent, the lies of the religious extremists have worn thin and lost power in the hearts and minds of fair-minded people. Anti-GLBT organizations are going the way of 8-track tapes in today's MP3 world. NGLTF is helping to bring about the day that wherever GLBT people live, - whether that's in larger cities like San Francisco, CA or in places like Cincinnati, OH, Covington, KY or Fred Phelps' hometown of Topeka, KS - they can live openly and honestly and be treated with the dignity and respect that all people deserve."

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.